AstraZeneca has announced two new deals to help it expand in the exploding immuno-oncology market.
The company is entering into a $10 million licensing agreement with Heptares Therapeutics to develop, manufacture and commercialise the A2A receptor antagonist HTL-1071, as well as other similar candidates.
These drugs block A2A receptors, which can be stimulated by tumour cells to prevent T-cells within the immune system proliferating.
Heptares is also eligible to receive $500 million in milestone payments from AstraZeneca as well as tiered royalties on sales.
Meanwhile, AZ’s biologics arm MedImmune has entered into an exclusive clinical trial collaboration with oncology company Mirati Therapetuics.
The Phase I/II study will evaluate the safety and efficacy of MedImmune’s investigational anti-PDL1 inhibitor MEDI4736 (durvalumab) in combination with mocetinostat, Mirati’s investigational spectrum-selective histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor.
The combination will initially be investigated in non-small cell lung cancer, with the potential to explore additional indications in the future.
Charles Baum, president and chief executive officer of Mirati, says: “There is a growing body of evidence that mocetinostat may enhance the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors such as PD-L1 antibodies.
“Mocetinostat selectively targets specific HDACs that may increase the efficacy of durvalumab in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, as well as other tumour types.”
AstraZeneca, which lags behind other companies such as Merck or Bristol-Myers Squibb in the immuno-oncology market, is pinning much of its future oncology hopes on MEDI4736.
These are the latest in a string of immunotherapy deals over the last few months. Others have included BMS and Kyowa Hakko Kirin, Merck and cCAM, and Sanofi and Regeneron.