Gilead Sciences has made its second deal in as many months that puts the company first in line to acquire a biotech developing cancer immunotherapies.
On Tuesday the Foster City, CA-based company said it would pay $300 million to South San Francisco-based Tizona Therapeutics for a 49.9 percent stake plus the option to later acquire the remainder of the company for an undisclosed fee plus potential milestone payments together totaling up to an additional $1.25 billion.
Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) can choose whether or not to go ahead with acquiring the company in full through the time Tizona completes a Phase 1b study of TTX-080, an antibody the company is testing as a potential treatment for tumors that express a “checkpoint” protein called HLA-G, which may play a role in helping some cancers evade the immune system. Tizona has the green light from the FDA to start testing the drug by itself and in combination with other drugs in patients with advanced cancers; it plans to start a Phase 1 trial this quarter.
The most advanced drug Tizona is developing won’t be included in the transaction. The company plans to spin off TTX-030, a clinical-stage anti-CD39 antibody at the center of a pact it entered into with AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) in January 2019. That partnership included a payment of $105 million up front plus an equity investment, the amount of which the companies didn’t reveal disclose.
In addition to AbbVie, investors who have backed Tizona include MPM Capital, Canaan Partners, Abingworth, Interwest Partners, Lightstone Ventures, and the investment arms of Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) and Astellas Pharma.
Tizona CEO Scott Clarke, in a prepared statement, said the money from Gilead will help it move ahead TTX-080 as well as accelerate the company’s preclinical programs and target validation efforts. The companies anticipate the deal will close this quarter. Once it does, Gilead will get to add two people to Tizona’s board of directors.
Last month Gilead made a similar deal with South San Francisco-based Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, paying $275 million for 49.9 percent of the company plus the option to pay another $315 million to acquire the remaining equity and make the startup eligible for up to $1.15 billion more in milestone payments.
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