Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche has decided to strengthen its position in the field of KRAS-mutated cancer through a $25 million licensing and collaboration agreement with Austrian arena-technology company Hookipa Pharma.
The agreement is for Hookipa’s HB-700 program, an investigational arenaviral immunotherapy designed to treat KRAS-mutated lung, colorectal, pancreatic and other cancers. Roche also has the option to license an undisclosed second arenaviral immunotherapy.
Inhibitors targeting KRAS mutations, previously thought to be “unusable”, have become a biotech hot commodity in recent years as scientific advances have unlocked potential treatment options for difficult mutations.
Hookipa’s proprietary arenavirus platform is based on the engineering of arenaviruses to transport and deliver virus- or tumor-specific genes directly to patients to evoke an immune response by T cells, also known as T-cells. TCD8+.
While other spacers only target a single KRAS mutation, Hookipa uses a multi-KRAS approach. HB-700 is designed to induce responses against cells harboring five of the most common KRAS mutations, specifically G12D, G12V, G12R, G12C, and G13D.
Under the new agreement, Hookipa will conduct research and early clinical development for HB-700 through Phase 1b, after which Roche will assume additional development and commercialization responsibilities if the candidate is successful.
After an initial payment of $25 million, Roche will have the option to extend the initial collaboration by adding an additional product candidate for an additional $15 million. If the pharma giant does decide to go this route, Hookipa could receive up to $930 million in milestone payments for research, development and commercialization.
“Roche is an ideal partner, both in terms of development and access to patients with new cancer treatments. We look forward to working with them for the benefit of people with KRAS-mutant cancers,” said Joern Aldag, CEO of HOOKIPA. “This collaboration validates the potential of our arenavirus platform and accelerates the development path to bring new treatments to people with cancer.”
This latest agreement strengthens Roche’s position in the KRAS space, having already received approval for the cobas KRAS Mutation diagnostic test, and entered into a license agreement for the RG6433 SHP2 inhibitor from Relay Therapeutics RG6433 through of its subsidiary Genentech.