Roche decides to hand back rights to NewLink's experimental IDO inhibitor navoximod

Roche intends to return rights to the investigational immunotherapy navoximod to NewLink Genetics, the latter company reported Thursday. Roche in-licensed the IDO inhibitor, also known as NLG919 and GDC-0919, in 2014 as part of a deal that could have been worth over $1 billion. Shares in NewLink plunged as much as 31 percent on the news. 

The Swiss drugmaker recently expressed doubts over the validity of IDO as a target (for related analysis, see ViewPoints: ASCO delivers mixed messages for IDO inhibitors). However, NewLink noted that its collaboration with Roche "for the discovery of next-generation IDO/TDO inhibitors continues." 

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Commenting on the news, NewLink CEO Charles Link said "we are obviously disappointed in this decision." He added "we remain committed to advancing our IDO pathway inhibitor indoximod, which continues to generate exciting data in combination with anti-PD-1 agents, cancer vaccines and chemotherapy in multiple cancer types including melanoma, prostate cancer, acute myeloid leukaemia and pancreatic cancer."

Mid-stage study data unveiled in April illustrated that the addition of indoximod to Merck & Co.'s anti-PD-1 immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) led to an objective response rate of 52 percent in patients with metastatic melanoma. For additional analysis, see ViewPoints: NewLink data help to validate IDO inhibitor class, but Incyte collaborations have raised the bar.

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