Gilead to buy 49.9% stake in biotech startup Pionyr Immunotherapeutics for $275M to secure access to two promising cancer drugs
Gilead Sciences announced Tuesday it would buy a 49.9% stake in biotech startup Pionyr Immunotherapeutics for $275 million. The investment would strengthen Gilead Sciences’ cancer portfolio by securing access to two promising drugs. As part of the agreement, Gilead Sciences will also have an exclusive option to purchase the remainder of Pionyr. In addition, Pionyr’s shareholders may receive up to an additional $1.47 billion in option exercise fees and future milestone payments.
The San Francisco, California-based Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, which is now planning to take its anti-cancer therapy to clinical trials, initially began as a research collaboration between Sidhu and Max Krummel, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
Founded in 2015, Pionyr combines Sidhu’s expertise in antibody phage-display technology with Krummel’s immune system biology research. Max Krummel, Ph.D. is a professor at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, and a member of Pionyr’s board of directors, who has been making significant strides in immuno-oncology since the mid-1990s, and Sachdev Sidhu, Ph.D., formerly of Genentech and currently head of protein engineering and antibody discovery at the University of Toronto. Dr. Krummel is the co-inventor of Yervoy, the first checkpoint inhibitor, which was approved in 2011 to treat melanoma. Pionyr has exclusively licensed technology based on Drs. Krummel and Sidhu’s work.
Pionyr is exploiting novel target discovery and antibody generation platform technologies to create the next generation of immuno-oncology therapeutics. The company’s approach, Myeloid Tuning™, is designed to enhance the immune system’s anti-tumor response by altering the cellular infiltrate of the tumor microenvironment with high specificity.
“Pionyr is pursuing promising, novel biology in the field of immuno-oncology,” said Daniel O’Day, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Gilead Sciences. “The agreement represents important progress as we continue to build out Gilead’s presence in immuno-oncology with innovative and complementary approaches. We look forward to seeing the programs advance with the goal of developing new therapies that will improve the treatment of cancer.”
“This agreement underscores the value of our myeloid tuning platform and the potential of our pipeline of antibody therapeutics designed to turbocharge the immune system within the tumor microenvironment,” said Steven P. James, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pionyr. “PY314 and PY159 are first-in-class antibodies designed to remove or reprogram, respectively, the immune suppressive cells in the tumor microenvironment and thereby enhance anti-tumor immunity. We are grateful that Gilead has acknowledged the promise of this transformational approach to potentially benefit patients across a range of solid tumors.”
Known for its antiviral drug remdesivir for use in COVID-19, Gilead said it has also secured the right to acquire the rest of the drug developer for a $315 million option exercise fee.
Pionyr’s immuno-oncology experimental drugs, PY314 and PY159, have shown potential against solid tumors in animal studies and it plans to file applications with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the third quarter to begin human testing.
The latest deal is one of many deals announced by the pharmaceutical giant. In March, Gilead reached a $4.9 billion deal with Forty Seven Inc, to snap up an experimental treatment that targets blood cancer. Last month, Gilead signed a 10-year pact with Arcus Biosciences Inc to co-develop and market cancer immunotherapies.