Blueprint, Roche Ink Milestone Deal for Cancer Immunotherapy

Xconomy Boston — 

Blueprint Medicines has another deal on its plate that could net it hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech raised $147 million in an initial public offering last year, two months before it received FDA approval to begin clinical trials on its two lead drug candidates in July. Now Blueprint has signed a deal with Roche to apply its drugs, known as kinase inhibitors, to cancer immunotherapy.

Blueprint agreed to discover, develop, and commercialize up to five small molecules for the pharmaceutical giant, with Roche offering Blueprint $45 million up front. Blueprint can make $215 million more on option fees and milestone payments related to research, preclinical, and clinical development of the drugs. The deal also offers Blueprint the potential of getting payments for regulatory and sales-based milestones if everything goes right, which could bring the total amount it earns to as much as $1 billion.

Blueprint was formed around the idea of using high-speed DNA sequencing instruments to help churn out precisely targeted cancer drugs that hit specific kinases, a family of hundreds of enzymes, as Xconomy has previously reported. Rare mutations in a specific type of kinase can drive a new type of cancer, and the idea behind Blueprint is to turn compounds into therapies that could target specific kinases.

The deal with Roche will apply the approach to immunokinases, in the hopes of developing both new methods of creating an immune response, as well as ways to broaden the use of existing cancer immunotherapies, the companies said in a prepared statement.

“We believe this highly collaborative relationship will enable us to accelerate our efforts in the emerging field of cancer immunotherapy and to continue building a leading biotechnology company,” Blueprint CEO Jeff Albers said in the statement.

Separately, Blueprint is beginning Phase 1 studies on drug candidates BLU-285 and BLU-554. BLU-285 targets a mutation of a gene that plays a role in certain gastrointestinal tumors and in systemic mastocytosis, an abnormal buildup of mast cells, which normally help protect the body from disease. BLU-554 targets a fibroblast growth receptor tied to some liver cancers.

Blueprint, which was formed in 2008 by Third Rock Ventures, has said it plans to use the $147 million it raised in its IPO on the trials.

The company has also received $15 million via an upfront payment from Alexion Pharmaceuticals, the rare disease drug maker, to co-develop drugs. The deal could pay as much as $250 million in milestones and royalties.