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Date: 02-Sep-2021

Gilead Will Acquire Equity In Pionyr Immunotherapeutics For $275M

Gilead will provide funding for Pionyr Immunotherapeutic’s clinical programs and will have the option to acquire the remainder of the company for $315 million option exercise fee.

Gilead Sciences recently announced that it will acquire 49.9 percent equity interest in Pionyr Immunotherapeutics Inc with exclusive option for $275 million.

Pionyr, a privately held company developing first-in-class cancer immunotherapies,  developed a research approach called Myeloid Tuning, which is essentially changing the composition of cells to “rebalance” the tumor microenvironment (TME).

This promotes anti-tumor immunity, Gilead noted.

As part of the acquisition, Gilead will provide funding for Pionyr’s clinical programs and has the option to acquire the remainder of the company for a $315 million option exercise fee.

Pionyr is also eligible to receive nearly $1.15 billion in future milestone payments upon achievement of specific development and regulatory milestones, Gilead stated.

“Pionyr is pursuing promising, novel biology in the field of immuno-oncology,” Daniel O’Day, chairman and chief executive officer, Gilead Sciences, said in the announcement.

“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.”

Pionyr’s Myeloid Tuning therapies have the ability to treat patients who do not benefit from checkpoint inhibitor therapies. Currently, two of the companies combination treatments, PY314 and PY159, have shown preclinical efficacy.

“PY314 targets TREM2, a protein commonly found on the surface of a certain type of immunosuppressive, pro-tumor myeloid cells. PY314 is designed to selectively deplete these cells, resulting in a rebalancing of the tumor microenvironment that favors anti-tumor immunity,” Gilead explained.

The preclinical results suggest potential in solid tumors in combination with established anti-PD(L)-1 agents, Gilead said. Pionyr will file investigational new drug (IND) applications with FDA for both PY314 and PY159 in the third quarter of this year.

“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.”

At the end of April, Gilead and two other pharmaceutical companies formed a partnership to support the discovery and development of next-generation cancer immunotherapies.

The collaboration between Gilead, Kite, a subsidiary of Gilead, and oNKo-innature, will work to uncover cancer immunotherapies and engineered cell therapies focused on natural killer (NK) cells.

While Gilead leverages oNKo’s genome-wide screening techniques and its technology platform to discover novel immune cell targets and enhance NK cell anti-tumor immunity, Kite will focus on chimeric antigen receptor and T cell receptor engineered cell therapies.

Current cancer immunotherapy approaches focus on T cell mediated anti-tumor immunity, including checkpoint inhibition and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy.  NK cells are a group of lymphocytes (white blood cells) that are vital to the immune system. When combined, NK and T cells can attack cancer cells but have different tools for destroying tumor cells. 

Therefore, activated and targeted NK cells may uncover a different approach that could be potentially complementary and synergistic with T cell mediated anti-tumor strategies, the announcement stated.

“With more than 20 years of collective academic expertise in NK cell biology, we have long believed in the potential for NK cells to play a role in cancer immunotherapy,” said Jai Rautela, PhD, co-founder and chief executive officer of oNKo-innate.