Ipsen and Marengo sign $1.2B Biobuck deal to treat cold tumors

Ipsen is interested in Marengo Therapeutics’ ability to treat “cold” tumors. The French drugmaker has agreed to pay Marengo up to $1.2 billion for a T-cell engagement platform for targeting immune-cold tumors that are often resistant to immunotherapy.

Marengo starts working with Ipsen in 2022. STAR enhances antibodies through T-cell costimulatory signaling in an attempt to enhance the immune response in “hot” tumors that may respond to immunotherapy. The biotech’s other platform, TriSTAR, is designed for tumors that are unlikely to respond to immunotherapy.

Cold tumors lack properties that support a strong anti-cancer immune response, for example because they are surrounded by cells that block T-cell attack. Immunotherapy has limited efficacy against this type of cancer, raising interest in how to turn cold tumors hot and allow more patients to benefit from this powerful drug class.

TriSTAR is Marengo’s answer to this question. Rather than relying on tumor-site T cells, which are often of poor quality or depleted, Marengo hopes to redirect a new, expanded pool of highly activated memory T cells to the tumor. If the biotechnology is correct, this approach will promote more potent and longer-lasting anti-tumor activity than traditional T-cell engagers.

Ipsen has embraced the idea. The drugmaker is paying an undisclosed amount upfront to partner with Marengo to develop up to two additional assets. Once a development candidate is nominated, Ipsen will assume full responsibility. As the company advances its candidates, it will pay milestone fees that could increase the deal value to $1.2 billion.

Two months ago, Ipsen collaborated with Skyhawk Therapeutics to develop small molecules that regulate RNA and acquired global rights to Sutro Biopharma’s ROR1 antibody-drug conjugate. Ipsen entered into these transactions to drive an external innovation strategy aimed at adding a third growth driver to existing and new products and offsetting the loss of somatuline sales.

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