On February 17th, Boston Immune Technologies and Therapeutics (BITT) and BeiGene entered into an exclusive option and license agreement to develop and commercialize BITT’s innovative tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor 2 (TNFR2) antagonist antibodies.
BeiGene has granted BITT’s TNFR2 antagonist antibodies to be developed, manufactured, and commercialized in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia except for Japan. Both firms have decided to conduct Phase 1 clinical trials of BITR2101 to test the effectiveness of the combo of TNFR2 antagonist antibody and BeiGene’s anti-PD-1 antibody, Tislelizumab.
“BeiGene is a global company with an especially strong track record supporting biotechnology innovation and the ideal partner to help develop BITR2101, our investigational TNFR2 lead antibody,” said Russel LaMontagne, Co-founder, and CEO of BITT. “The collaboration with BeiGene is a strong validation of BITT’s antibody platform and an opportunity to prove the potential of BITR2101 as a single agent and in combination with checkpoint inhibitors such as tislelizumab.”
Under the terms of the agreement, BITT will receive an upfront payment of $16.6 million and is eligible to receive development, regulatory, and sales milestones up to $105 million. In addition, BeiGene invested another $4 million in BITT’s Series A preferred stock financing.
BITT and TNFR2
As a privately-held developer of novel antagonist antibodies for cancer and other diseases, BITT along with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School has constructed a platform for the research of TNFR2 oncogene, because it plays a notorious role in proliferating tumor cell growth as well as protecting tumor cells from immune checkpoint blockades, such as PD1 and CTLA4.
The platform also aims to discern the potent population of TNFR2 Tregs (immunosuppressive regulatory T cells), myeloid-derived suppressor cells, and NFkB-driven growth receptor oncogene, in which TNFR2 epitope is densely expressed in the tumor microenvironment.
“TNFR2 is an interesting target because of the high expression on the suppressive cells in the tumor microenvironment and a growing consensus that targeting TNFR2 may be a novel and effective approach to treating cancer. BITT has created antibodies that are highly specific to the tumor based on their unique and novel binding modality. We look forward to collaborating with BITT and generating clinical data for BITR2101 as a single agent and in combination with tislelizumab,” said Lusong Luo, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of External Innovation at BeiGene.
Potential BITT’s TNFR2 Competitor
A potential competitor of BITT’s TNFR2 antagonist antibody is BioInvent International AB. BioInvent focuses on the discovery and development of novel and first-in-class immuno-regulatory antibody-based medicines generated by its proprietary n-CoDeR & F.I.R.S.T. platforms which include a comprehensive program to target TNFR2 for cancer therapy.
One of BioInvent’s lead candidate antibody BI-1808 from the platforms was in preclinical development in March 2019 and expected to enter clinical trials in the first half of 2020. In fact, just last month, BioInvent enrolled the first patient in a Phase I/IIa trial of BI-1808 for the treatment of solid tumors and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL).
By Judy Ya-Hsuan Lin
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