Roche and SQZ Biotech are working together on a cell therapy platform that would empower a patient’s own immune cells to fight a broad range of cancers.

SQZ’ pioneering technology is based on engineering B cells to fight cancer. Proteins are introduced into a patient’s B cells to activate killer T cells to attack cancer cells, offering a novel approach which the firms say could overcome many of the shortcomings of current cell-based therapies.

“In collaboration with the renowned team at Roche, we seek to engineer a patient’s own immune system to target tumours more effectively and bring hope to people suffering from cancer,” said Armon Sharei, SQZ’ founder and chief executive.

Under the deal, the US biotech, a spin-out of MIT, could bag $500 min upfront and potential clinical, regulatory and sales milestone-based payments for advancement of all products across all planned indications, in addition to royalties on potential future products.