Janux, Merck partner on T-cell engager immunotherapies

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

December 18, 2020 -- Janux Therapeutics has entered into a strategic collaboration and licensing agreement with Merck to discover, develop, and commercialize next-generation T-cell engager cancer immunotherapies.

The goal of the collaboration is to use Janux's proprietary tumor-activated T-cell engager (TRACTr) technology platform to engineer novel T-cell engager drug candidates directed at cancers that have been selected by Merck.

T-cell engagers are an emerging class of immunotherapies that bind tumor cells to recruit a patient's T cells to destroy tumor cells. Earlier versions of the technology have been constricted by dose-limiting toxicities, poor pharmacokinetic profiles, and attenuated efficacy.

Janux's platform integrates tumor-specific activation with crossover pharmacokinetics to produce next-generation candidates. In preclinical studies, Janux TRACTr candidates have demonstrated comparable antitumor efficacy to standard T-cell engagers but without liabilities due to cytokine release, healthy tissue toxicities, or systemic immune activation.

Under the agreement, Merck has received an exclusive worldwide license to products and intellectual property developed out of the collaboration. In exchange, Janux will be eligible to earn up to $501 million per target in upfront and milestone payments plus royalties on sales of any product derived from the collaboration. Merck will fund research and development performed under the collaboration.

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