Precision BioSciences Reaches Big Licensing Deal With Imugene

Precision BioSciences has the need for speed.

Less than a month after the Durham-based clinical-stage gene editing company announced plans to look for strategic partners for its cell therapy assets, Precision has found one. It has reached a deal – potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars – with Imugene Limited for the global rights to its lead allogeneic CAR T candidate, Azercabtagene Zapreleucel (azer-cel).

CAR T cell therapies use specially altered T cells – a part of the immune system – to fight cancer.Precision BioSciences

The transaction will accomplish a couple of Precision’s goals, according to CEO Michael Amoroso. It will allow the company —which has been involved in both in vivo gene editing and ex vivo allogeneic CAR T therapies – to focus exclusively on its gene editing platform. And it will provide additional cash to lengthen the company’s operating runway beyond two years. Precision expects to reduce its annual operational spending by about $20 million.

The company specializes in gene editing using its proprietary ARCUS technology, which was discovered and developed by Precision scientists. It uses DNA-cutting enzymes – or nucleases – to insert, remove or repair the DNA of living cells and organisms. ARCUS is based on a naturally occurring genome editing enzyme, I-Crel, which evolved in a type of algae.

Imugene to pay $21 million up front and millions more if milestones are met

Imugene will pay $21 million upfront in cash and equity for global rights to azer-cel. When the therapy completes phase 1b dosing in the CART T relapsed large B-cell lymphoma patient population, Precision is eligible for another $8 million. The company could receive up to $198 million in milestone payments, plus double-digit royalties on net sales, if the drug is successful.

Imugene also has the option to develop up to three other cancer research programs in the future, each of which is tied to up to $145 million in milestone payments.

“Our commercial and scientific interests are closely aligned, and we believe Precision’s allogeneic CAR T technology can complement the novel oncology approaches being pursued by Imugene, especially its OnCARlytics platform for solid tumors,” Amoroso pointed out.

Imugene CEO Leslie Chong said the deal is “an important opportunity to develop a much-needed treatment for the growing number of lymphoma patients who have relapsed following CAR T treatment and is complementary to our pipeline, which is designed to unleash the immune system to fight cancer, including our OnCARlytics program.”

About Precision BioSciences

Precision was spun out of Duke University in 2006 and went public in March 2009. Its shares are listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “DTIL,” shorthand for the company’s marketing tagline “Dedicated to Improving Life.”

Precision’s pipeline has included several “off-the-shelf” CAR T immunotherapy clinical and in vivo-gene-correction therapy candidates. They are targeted at curing genetic and infectious diseases for which no adequate treatments exist.

Bryant Haskins, NCBiotech Writer
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