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Roche, Adaptimmune part ways on cell therapy research

Dive Brief:

  • Genentech, the research subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, has decided to cut short a partnership focused on cell therapies for cancer.

  • Forged in September 2021, the deal had Genentech and Adaptimmune Therapeutics collaborate on allogeneic, or “off-the-shelf” cell therapies. The companies initially planned to develop treatments for up to five cancer targets, while also establishing a platform for personalized allogeneic cell therapies. But halfway into the collaboration’s expected five-year run, the partners are parting ways.

  • Adaptimmune got $150 million upfront when the deal was struck, and stood to take home another $150 million over the following five years from additional payments. The biotechnology company was also eligible to receive more than $3 billion in milestone and royalty payments. Adaptimmune’s CEO Adrian Rawcliffe noted in a statement Friday that the company still has enough resources to bring to market its most advanced program, a sarcoma therapy called afami-cel.

Dive Insight:

The Adaptimmune collaboration was part of a larger push from Roche to catch up to rival pharmaceutical firms that had invested more heavily in cell therapy research.

Less than a year after inking that deal, the company teamed up with San Diego-based Poseida Therapeutics to advance allogeneic CAR T-cell therapies for the treatment of blood cancers. For $110 million upfront, Roche secured exclusive rights or options to develop and commercialize a “number” of Poseida’s drugs, including one already in early-stage testing for multiple myeloma.

Another of those drugs has since entered a Phase 1 trial evaluating its potential against certain hard-to-treat blood cancers.

In September 2022, Roche, through Genentech, partnered with another Californian biotech. The deal gave Arsenal Biosciences $70 million upfront, with the promise of additional payments if specific research, regulatory and commercial goals were hit. In exchange, Genentech got access to Arsenal’s technology for high-throughput screening and engineering of T cells, which the companies believed could be used to create “next-generation” cell therapies for cancer.

It’s not clear what caused Genentech to pull away from Adaptimmune. In that Friday statement, Rawcliffe said that his company has had “a very valuable collaboration with our partner” and continues to “believe in the long-term potential” of its own drug platform.

Adaptimmune said it remains focused on launching afami-cel later this year and broadening its business treating sarcomas. Afami-cel is currently under review at the Food and Drug Administration, with an approval decision expected by Aug. 4. Adaptimmune will provide an update on launch plans at the company’s upcoming investor day, which is scheduled for April 18.

Shares of Adaptimmune dipped more than 9% Friday morning, to trade at $1.17 apiece.