Janux Therapeutics and Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) have entered a license and strategic collaboration agreement to discover, develop as well as commercialize next-gen T cell engager immunotherapies for cancer treatment.
Merck to pay Janux $550.5 upfront payment following a collaboration agreement
The collaboration aims to leverage Janux’s Novel Tumor Activated T Cell Engager (TRACTr™) tech to engineer proprietary T cell engager treatments directed at two cancer targets chosen by Merck. According to the terms of the agreement, Merck will receive an exclusive global license to intellectual property and products developed under the partnership. In exchange, Merck will pay Janux an upfront payment of around $550.5 million per target plus milestone payments and sales royalties on products developed from the collaboration. Most importantly Merck will fund all research and development conducted under the partnership.
T cell engagers are a novel class of immunotherapies that binds to tumor cells and recruit the patient’s T cells to remove tumor cells. Unfortunately, early technologies were constrained by poor pharmacokinetic profiles, dose-limiting toxicities, and attenuation. These shortcomings are what the TRACTr technology from Janux seeks to address through the integration of tumor-specific stimulation with crossover pharmacokinetic to results in best-in-class T cell engager therapies. According to preclinical studies, TRACTr therapeutic candidates have shown comparable anti-tumor efficacy compared to standard T cell engagers. However, there is a lack of related liabilities linked to cytokine releases, systemic immune activation to health tissue toxicities.
T cell engagers kill tumor cells and spare healthy tissues
Janux CEO and President, David Campell said that the company has created a tech designed to engineer best-in-class T cell engages potent enough and tumor-specific. The engagers are important in immune response to kill tumor cells while sparing healthy tissue. He added that the partnership with Merck which is one of the leading immune-oncology companies offers Janux the necessary expertise and resources of creating next-gen T cell engagers that will be vital immunotherapies for cancer patients.
The TRACTr pipeline targets several solid tumor indications and the tech applies to immunotherapies targeting all anti-tumor immune response stages.