T Cells Attacking Cancer Cell
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Gilead Sciences and Jounce Therapeutics announced late Tuesday amendments to the existing terms and licensing agreements for GS-1811 (previously called JTX-1811), a potential first-in-class anti-CCR8 antibody in development as a potential treatment against solid tumors. The new deal will see the termination of certain operational obligations and Gilead will buy out the remaining contingent payments potentially due under a licensing agreement signed by the two parties in August 2020. The new agreement includes a payment of $67 million to Jounce by Gilead to acquire all related intellectual property and all outstanding rights to GS-1811.

Gilead will now be solely responsible for all ensuing research, development, and potential commercialization of GS-1811, which is designed to selectively deplete immunosuppressive tumor-infiltrating T regulatory cells in the tumor microenvironment. The immunotherapy candidate is currently in Phase I development.

“We are pleased to announce the signing of this transaction with Gilead, who have a strong track record of developing and successfully commercializing leading brands in biotechnology,” said Richard Murray, PhD, CEO and president of Jounce.

News of the deal sent shares of Jounce soaring in early trading today on the NASDAQ market, up nearly 60% from its previous close of $0.73 per share. The $67 million cash infusion comes as Jounce looks to fund other clinical programs in its oncology pipeline, including JTX-8064 highest priority and lead macrophage program, is an anti-leukocyte immunoglobulin like receptor B2 (LILRB2)/ILT4 antibody which aims to convert immunosuppressive macrophages to an anti-tumor state and to create a bridge between the innate and T cell arm of the immune system. It is currently in a Phase I/II trial as a monotherapy and combination with another Jounce candidate PD-1 inhibitor Pimivalimab in patients with advanced refractory solid tumors. Called the INNATE trial, launched in January 2021 the monotherapy dose escalation study completed in July that year, and was expanded to a monotherapy cohort in ovarian cancer, initiated in August 2021.

“This transaction allows us to extend our runway and remain focused on delivering meaningful and long-lasting benefits to cancer patients,” noted Murray. “It was important for Jounce at this time to bolster our cash resources, given challenges in capital markets for biotech companies.”

For Gilead, grabbing the sole rights to GS-1811 allows it to save the potential of $645 million in milestone payments and potential royalties tied to the original deal and further strengthens the company’s immunotherapy pipeline.

“Today’s news about GS-1811 further demonstrates our commitment to our rapidly evolving oncology franchise and mission of pioneering next-generation medicines for people with cancer,” said Bill Grossman, MD, PhD, SVP, Therapeutic Area head, Gilead Oncology. “GS-1811, with its potential new pathway of activating the immune system, gives us the opportunity to potentially change the standard of care with a treatment that works from inside cancerous cells to shrink solid tumors.”

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