SQZ Biotechnologies (SQZ), a cell therapy company developing novel treatments for multiple therapeutic areas, is expanding its collaboration with Roche in cellular therapy. Under the terms, SQZ and Roche will jointly develop and commercialize certain products based on antigen presenting cells (APCs) created by the SQZ platform for the treatment of oncology indications.

“We believe that this new expanded collaboration accelerates our ability to bring a broad range of impactful oncology products to market,” said Armon Sharei, PhD, founder and CEO of SQZ. “We have an ambitious scientific and clinical vision to create transformative cell therapies at SQZ, and we believe our alliance with Roche will yield novel therapeutics for cancer patients.”

Under the collaboration, SQZ may receive up to $125 million in upfront payment and near-term milestones. SQZ could earn up to $250 million in clinical, regulatory and sales milestones per product that emerges from the collaboration. In addition, SQZ may receive development milestone payments of over $1 billion.  Within the collaboration, SQZ and Roche could share commercial rights for certain approved products.

SQZ APCs leverage native immune functions to spark target-specific killer (CD8) T cell responses in vivo. Through effective presentation of antigens on MHC-I, SQZ APCs can directly stimulate CD8 T cell activity and potentially drive powerful anti-tumor effects that address antigens inaccessible by other adoptive cell-based cancer immune therapy strategies. In addition to their broad targeting potential, the SQZ APC engineering and manufacturing process requires no cellular expansion or genetic modification by viruses or editing agents, thereby dramatically improving the anticipated safety profile, cutting production time, and cost.

The companies will expand the 2015 Roche collaboration to jointly develop therapeutics derived from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).

Howard Bernstein, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer of SQZ, commented “By creating a PBMC APC platform, this collaboration allows for a SQZ APC product engine that could potentially generate products with more potent immunologic responses through a simplified, more efficient manufacturing process.”

Source: “Roche and SQZ Biotech Expand Cell Therapy Partnership to Develop Antigen Presenting Cells.” Research & Development, SQZ Biotechnologies, 16 Oct. 2018, www.rdmag.com/news/2018/10/roche-and-sqz-biotech-expand-cell-therapy-partnership-develop-antigen-presenting-cells.

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