BioNTech bolsters T-cell therapy pipeline with Neon buyout

BioNTech reached a definitive agreement to acquire Neon Therapeutics in a move it says will expand its CAR-T and T-cell receptor (TCR) pipeline with the addition of neoantigen specific cell therapies, including a T-cell therapy targeting shared RAS oncogenes, the companies announced Thursday. Ugur Sahin, chief executive at BioNTech, remarked "I am particularly excited about the adoptive T-cell and neoantigen TCR therapies being developed by Neon, which are complementary to our pipeline and our focus on solid tumours."

Neon's most advanced programme is NEO-PTC-01, a personalised neoantigen-targeted T-cell therapy consisting of multiple T-cell populations designed to target the most therapeutically relevant neoantigens in a patient's tumour. The company recently filed a European clinical trial authorisation application to test NEO-PTC-01 in patients with metastatic melanoma who are refractory to checkpoint inhibitors.

It is also developing NEO-STC-01, which is currently in preclinical development, and targets shared RAS neoantigens initially in pancreatic cancer. The compounds leverage Neon's RECON machine-learning bioinformatics platform, as well as NEO-STIM, its proprietary process to prime, activate and expand neoantigen-targeting T cells ex vivo.

BioNTech, which is based in Germany, also said the merger would accelerate its global expansion by creating a US hub for research and clinical development.

The deal will see Neon investors receive 0.063 BioNTech shares in exchange for each of their shares of Neon, which works out at $2.18 per Neon share, or about $67 million in total based on the closing price of BioNTech's stock on January 15. The transaction has been approved by the boards of both companies, but requires approval from Neon shareholders. BioNTech noted that certain stockholders holding an approximate 36% stake in Neon have agreed to cast their vote in favour of the merger, which is expected to close in the second quarter.

In November, Neon announced a restructuring that included a strategic focus on neoantigen-based T-cell programmes. As part of the overhaul, the company said it would end its NEO-PV-01 and NEO-SV-01 cancer vaccine programmes, and reduce its headcount by around 24%. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Neon fades out of cancer vaccine programme.

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