Celgene and Jounce Therapeutics have linked in a global strategic collaboration striving to develop and commercialise immuno-oncology treatments.

The move gives Celgene options to jointly develop and commercialise Jounce's lead product candidate, JTX-2011, and additional innovative immunotherapies targeting B cells, T regulatory cells and tumor-associated macrophages.

In return, Jounce stands to receive an upfront payment of $225 million, a $36 million equity investment, and up to an additional $2.3 billion in future milestone payments across all programmes included in the collaboration.

JTX-2011 is a monoclonal antibody that binds to and activates ICOS, the Inducible T cell CO-Stimulator, a protein on the surface of certain T cells that is believed to stimulate an immune response against a patient's cancer.

The drug is being developed to treat solid tumours as a single agent and in combination with other therapies, and is expected to enter the clinic in the second half of this year.

"Jounce has built a unique immuno-oncology platform and pipeline with a focus on the development of novel cancer therapies matched to patient populations most likely to respond," said Robert Hershberg, Celgene's chief scientific officer, explaining his firm's interest in the deal.

"This collaboration allows both companies to leverage broad capabilities in immuno-oncology to bring forward a new generation of product candidates for cancer patients."