Clinical-stage immunobiology company Simcha Therapeutics has signed a licence and option agreement with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Biotech for new decoy-resistant IL-18 (DR-18).
The deal, facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, will enable Janssen to develop cell therapies that are armed with DR-18 of Simcha.
Janssen will be responsible for the development, production and commercialisation of DR-18-armoured cell therapies for various programmes.
Simcha Therapeutics will in turn receive an undisclosed upfront payment apart from option exercise fees and milestone payments on meeting development and commercialisation goals.
The company’s lead programme, ST-067, is utilising IL-18 in new ways. It is being developed as a single agent and along with other anticancer therapies.
Presently, ST-067 is undergoing evaluation in Phase I/II clinical trials, targeting solid tumour patients who have not progressed on treatment with other immunotherapies.
The trials include investigations of ST-067 as a standalone treatment and in combination with KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab).
Simcha is also investigating additional applications for IL-18-based therapeutics to fully harness the potential of this ground breaking cytokine.
Simcha Therapeutics CEO Sanuj Ravindran said: “Interest in developing IL-18 therapeutic approaches for cancer has continued to increase in recent years, tying back to findings published by our scientific founder that reinvigorated therapeutic interest in this cytokine.
“Armouring CAR T cells to secrete IL-18 is one of the most exciting areas of research, and we are proud to move the research forward with Janssen.
“We will continue to expand our focus on IL-18 and the range of modalities that have potential to significantly improve outcomes for cancer patients, including through our internal development programs and additional strategic partnerships in the future.”