TScan Therapeutics, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, entered a collaboration agreement with Novartis. They will partner to discover and develop novel T-cell Receptor (TCR)-engineered T-cell therapies for solid tumors.
Under the terms of the deal, Novartis is paying TScan an upfront technology access fee and research funding totaling $30 million. There are also milestone payments that could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.
The partnership will leverage TScan’s technology platform to identify novel cancer antigens that can be targeted by TCR-based therapies. TScan will identify and characterize TCRs. Novartis has the option to license and develop TCRs for up to three targets. Novartis will then have the option of first negotiation for additional targets and TCRs that come out of the collaboration. Also, Novartis will pay TScan mid-single to low double-digit royalties on net sales for each product that is commercialized out of the partnership. TScan holds the rights to develop TCRs against targets not licensed by Novartis.
TScan’s lead program is TSC-100, which is expected to enter clinical development for liquid cancers in 2021. The company was co-founded by Christoph Westphal, a partner of the Longwood Fund, based on research from Harvard Medical School’s Elledge Lab. To date, TScan has raised more than $80 million from collaborators and investors, including Longwood Fund, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Astellas Venture Management, Novartis Venture Fund, Bessemer Venture Partners, GV (formerly Google Ventures), 6 Dimensions Capital and Pitango Venture Capital.
The company’s scientific co-founder, Stephen Elledge, is the Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and of Medicine, Division of Genetics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School. His research focuses on cellular proliferation and the DNA Damage Response.
“As one of the only companies able to efficiently discover novel cancer antigens that can be targeted with TCR-based therapies, we are delighted to be collaborating with Novartis to develop important TCR treatments,” said David P. Southwell, president and chief executive officer of TScan. “We see expansive potential for our platform and this collaboration gives us the opportunity to work with Novartis to develop novel TCR therapies, while at the same time preserving our ability to develop our own proprietary pipeline in both liquid and solid tumors.”
The company’s technology platform is built on the concept that T-cells reside in tumors that have the potential to detect and eliminate cancer cells. Even though they are functionally inactive or impaired, their T-cell receptors (TCRs) can still identify antigens on cancer cells. If the TCRs are isolated and transferred into non-impaired T-cells from the patient’s blood, they can redirect the T-cells to recognize and kill cancer cells.
The TScan Discovery Platform processes tens of thousands of patient-derived TCRs, with the company building a repository of therapeutically active TCRs with novel targets.
In addition to this latest news, in March, the company reported that it is leveraging its platform to understand the T-cell response to SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Its coronavirus library contains every peptide coding variant in the approximately 100 viral isolates of SARS-CoV-2 that were sequenced to that point. Using their technology platform, they can quickly determine the viral targets of about 1,000 TCRs at a time. The company hopes that by identifying the T-cell targets in patients with various levels of severity, as well as recovered patients, they can identify protective epitopes to assist in vaccine development.