Roche has linked up with Immatics to develop cancer vaccines in a deal that could be worth over $1 billion to the German biotech.
The agreement will focus on a number of new tumour-associated peptide (TUMAP)-based cancer vaccines and other immunotherapies in oncology, targeting primarily gastric, prostate and non-small cell lung cancer. The most advanced candidate is IMA942, for the treatment of gastric cancer, which is going into Phase I.

Under the terms of the pact, Immatics will receive an upfront fee of $17 million,  research funding plus potential milestone payments "that could reach values in excess of $1 billion". The Tuebingen-headquartered firm is also entitled to royalties.

Hy Levitsky, head of cancer immunology experimental medicine at Roche, said that "the wealth of relevant cancer-specific antigens that we expect to emerge from this research collaboration will provide an extraordinary opportunity to elicit broad tumour-specific immune responses upon vaccination, especially when combined with other immunomodulatory molecules in our pipeline". He added that the discovery of novel antigens "also will provide unique targets for other protein-based anti-cancer agents currently under development".
Paul Higham, chief executive at Immatics, said his firm is "delighted that Roche through this alliance has recognised the huge potential of our TUMAP-based approach to rapidly develop cancer vaccines that we believe hold great promise…in terms of overall survival improvement and quality of life benefits”.