Bristol-Myers Squibb has announced a worldwide research collaboration and license agreement with CytomX to discover, develop and commercialise novel therapies against multiple immuno-oncology targets using the latter's proprietary Probody Platform.

Probodies are monoclonal antibodies selectively activated within the cancer microenvironment, to focus the activity of therapeutic antibodies to tumours and thus help spare healthy tissue.

In return for an upfront fee of $50 million, research funding and future milestones and royalty payments, B-MS has bagged exclusive global rights to develop and commercialise probodies for up to four oncology targets including CTLA-4, a clinically validated immune inhibitory checkpoint receptor. 

CytomX is eligible to receive preclinical payments and up to $298 million in future development, regulatory and sales milestone payments for each collaboration target, as well as tiered mid-single-digit rising to low-double-digit royalty payments on net sales of each product commercialised by B-MS. 

Incyte pact

Meanwhile, B-MS has entered into another clinical trials pact assessing its cancer immunotherapy candidate nivolumab, this time in combination with Incyte's INCB24360.

The companies plan to look at the safety, tolerability and preliminary efficacy of a combination B-MS' drug, an investigational PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor, and Incyte’s oral indoleamine dioxygenase-1 (IDO1) inhibitor.

Both drugs target distinct regulatory components of the immune system, helping it to recognise attack and destroy cancer cells, and preclinical evidence suggests combining them may lead to an "enhanced anti-tumour immune response" compared to either alone, the groups said.

The Phase I/II study, which will be co-funded by the firms but carried out by Incyte, will examine the combo across a number of solid tumours, potentially including melanoma, non-small cell lung, ovarian, and colorectal cancer.

35 trials and 7,000 patients

B-MS is certainly throwing a lot of resource at nivolumab; the drug is currently being studied in more than 35 trials – as monotherapy or in combination with other therapies – in which more than 7,000 patients have been enrolled worldwide. 

Earlier this month the drugmaker announced a similar collaboration with Celldex, analysing a combination of nivolumab and Celldex’s CD27 targeting investigational antibody varlilumab in multiple tumour types.