September 1, 2020

Impact: Moderate

  • Gilead has reached an exclusive licensing agreement for Jounce Therapeutic’s JTX-1811. JTX-1811 is a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that targets CCR8 to deplete immunosuppressive tumor-infiltrating T regulatory cells (Tregs). CCR8 is expressed by these Tregs and they are depleted by JTX-1811 treatment.
  • JTX-1811 has yet to enter the clinic, an IND is anticipated to be filed in the 1H2021.
  • Per terms of the agreement, Gilead will make an upfront payment of $85 million in addition to a $35 million equity investment ($120M total). Future milestone payments (clinical, regulatory, and/or commercial) have the potential to reach $685 million.
    • Jounce is also eligible to receive royalties ranging from the high single digit to mid-teens for worldwide sales.
  • Jounce will lead development of JTX-1811 through IND clearance, and after Gilead will have the sole right to develop JTX-1811.

inThought Analysis

This announcement marks Gilead’s 6th immuno-oncology focused deal of 2020. In March, Gilead acquired Forty-Seven and its lead asset magrolimab (anti-CD47) for $4.9B. Then in May, Gilead partnered with Arcus for a $375 million upfront payment which gives them access to an anti-PD-1 mAb, anti-TIGIT mAB, a small molecule adenosine inhibitor, and a small molecule CD73 inhibitor. This was followed by Gilead acquiring a 49.9% stake in Pionyr Immunotherapeutics for $275 million to have a stake in myeloid tuning therapies that may address non-responders to currently available checkpoint inhibitors. In late July, Gilead spent $300 million upfront to acquire a 50% equity stake in Tizona Therapeutics and control of the HLA-G targeting mAb, TTX-080. And just a few weeks ago Gilead announced a discovery focused strategic partnership with Tango Therapeutics to utilize CRISPR based screening to identify novel immune evasion targets. Per terms of the partnership Gilead made a $125 million upfront payment and $20 million equity investment. Total all these deals up, and Gilead has spent $5.9B to date.

Although largely focused on early stage and unproven assets, the strategy is intriguing. Outside of PD-1 axis inhibitors and CAR-T, alternative IO approaches have yet to achieve much success. Consequently, it is believed that combination approaches are the way forward. This is especially true in difficult to treat solid tumor settings, and it is likely that a PD-1 axis inhibitor will form the backbone of treatment regimens. With this slew of recent deals, Gilead will be able to undertake a variety of combination approaches.

Source: Gilead Press Release