SAN FRANCISCO—In its first big agreement of 2017, Nektar Therapeutics has announced a research collaboration with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd., which was signed through Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., Takeda's wholly owned subsidiary. Under the collaboration, Nektar and Takeda will evaluate the combination of NKTR-214, Nektar's lead immuno-oncology candidate, with five compounds from Takeda's cancer portfolio. Per the terms of the agreement, both companies will contribute their respective compounds for research and, though no specific financial details were released, will share the costs of the preclinical studies. NKTR-214 will be tested with Takeda's five oncology compounds in preclinical tumor models of lymphoma, melanoma and colorectal cancer. Both companies will maintain global commercial rights to their drugs/drug candidates.
"We look forward to collaborating with Takeda to explore a range of combination therapy approaches in models of both liquid and solid tumors," commented Dr. Jonathan Zalevsky, Nektar's senior vice president of Biology and Preclinical Development. "Importantly, this research collaboration will allow us to understand the potential of NKTR-214 with key compounds in the Takeda oncology portfolio, including a SYK-inhibitor and a proteasome inhibitor, and identify which combination treatment regimens show the most promise for possible advancement into the clinic."
NKTR-214 is a CD122-biased agonist, an investigational immuno-stimulatory therapy aimed at boosting certain CD8+ effector T cells and natural killer (NK) cells in the tumor microenvironment as well as the expression of PD-1 on the surface of those cells. The drug candidate targets CD122-specific receptors on the surface of the aforementioned immune cells to stimulate their proliferation. Preclinical and clinical studies have shown that NKTR-214 treatment led to an expansion of CD8+ effector T cells and NK cells and their mobilization into the tumor microenvironment.
At the 2017 AACR annual meeting, the company made five preclinical presentations, four of which concerned NKTR-214. Among the findings, the company revealed that NKTR-214 engendered a durable response as a single agent in a rat model of glioblastoma, leading to increased survival; that the compound combines well with radiation therapy to boost CD8 T cells and tumor regression; and that NKTR-214 improved the anti-tumor activity of adoptive cellular therapy in a mouse model of melanoma. Nektar will be presenting new patient data from trials of NKTR-214 at this year's ASCO meeting on June 5.
"We see significant potential in Nektar's unique CD122-biased agonist, in particular the ability to stimulate tumor-killing T cells in the tumor micro-environment itself," Dr. Phil Rowlands, head of the Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit at Takeda, said in a press release. "Research partnerships are an important part of helping us advance our aspiration of curing cancer. Working together with Nektar will enable us to identify combinations with exciting preclinical activity and help us achieve Takeda's goal of developing innovative, targeted therapies to treat people with cancer."
This is not the only cancer-focused agreement Takeda has inked through Millennium Pharmaceuticals this month—back on May 9, the company shared the establishment of a strategic collaboration with GammaDelta Therapeutics Ltd., an Abingworth portfolio company. The companies will work together to develop GammaDelta's novel T cell platform, based on the properties of gamma delta (γδ) T cells derived from human tissues, in hopes of discovering and developing new immunotherapies aimed at both cancer and autoinflammatory diseases.
Takeda, along with Abingworth, will commit up to $100 million in funding to this effort, which includes an equity investment and an option fee and research and development funding. Under the agreement, Takeda also gains the exclusive right to purchase GammaDelta Therapeutics and will appoint a director to the latter company's board.
“At Takeda, we recognize the enormous potential of tissue resident γδ T cells to deliver transformative medicines in our core therapeutic areas of oncology and gastroenterology,” remarked Dr. Daniel Curran, head of the Center for External Innovation, Takeda. “This collaboration is another example of our strategy to invest in highly innovative areas of science, and we’re pleased to collaborate with the experienced team at GammaDelta Therapeutics as they aim to take a leadership position in this rapidly emerging field.”