Photo: Immatics Biotechnologies

Expansion through partnerships

Immatics Biotechnologies has landed a potential US$1.1bn deal with GlaxoSmith­Kline (GSK) to find novel cancer targets on solid tumours and to direct TCR-T cell therapies against them. European Biotechnology spoke with Dr Harpreet Singh, CEO of Immatics Biotechnologies.

EuroBiotech_What are the most important elements of this new partnership for Immatics?
Singh_GSK is a leading pharmaceutical player truly committed to T-cell receptor technology therapies (shortened TCR-T), with a clear strategy to build next-generation, commercial manufacturing platforms and next-generation, engineering technologies to enhance the efficacy and safety of drugs based on this treatment modality. Combining GSK’s capabilities with our highly differentiated discovery platform that identifies true targets and the right T-cell receptors could unlock new treatment opportunities that would benefit cancer patients, particularly patients with solid cancers that currently have little to no therapeutic options.

EuroBiotech_How does the cooperation with GSK advance Immatics’ business development?
Singh_The collaboration with GSK will allow us to further expand our activities in the T-cell receptor therapy field, particularly for the treatment of solid tumours. Together with GSK, we will combine existing resources and expertise in the development, validation, and manufacturing of T-cell receptor therapeutics to rapidly and successfully advance Immatics’ novel TCR candidates. Furthermore, our collaboration with a major pharmaceutical partner like GSK serves as an additional validation of the
potential of our unique technology platforms.

EuroBiotech_What distinguishes and qualifies Immatics’ XPRESIDENT® platform for target identification and validation from competitors’ cancer antigen discovery platforms?
Singh_XPRESIDENT® is the most sensitive, accurate, and highest-throughput technology capable of identifying targets in virtually any type of cancer. Immatics’ innovative TCR platform, XCEPTOR™, enables the rapid and efficient identification and characterization of a large number of high-affinity and highly specific T-cell receptors, which, in turn, can be used for the modification of T cells in adoptive cell therapies. The key differentiators of our platform are:

  • XPRESIDENT® is the leading mass spectrometry-based platform used to identify pHLA target structures.

  • XPRESIDENT® is ultra-sensitive (in the attomolar range) and enables a quantitative analysis of target structures per tumour cell. XPRESIDENT® is able to detect the most relevant and naturally-occurring cancer target structures.

  • XPRESIDENT® uses an extremely comprehensive data set comprised not only of tumour tissues but also of normal tissue. This data enables the selection of the T-cell receptors with the highest specificity through analysis of on- and off-target toxicity.

EuroBiotech_CAR-T therapies are currently only approved for leukaemia and lymphoma. From the partners’ point of view, why are TCR-Ts also effective against solid tumours?
Singh_Although no approved TCR-T therapies for solid tumours currently exist, promising results have been shown from clinical studies examining the TCR-T approach (including those from GSK, among others). Indeed, solid cancers are harder “nuts” to crack, as they develop various mechanisms to protect themselves against T cells. A large number of effective and specific T cells, such as TCRs, are, thus, needed to infiltrate and attack the tumour. Solid tumours are most often heterogenous, not only between different cancer types but also between different patients suffering from the same type of tumour. Therefore, choosing the right targets for the TCR therapy is critical. We and our partners believe that having the ability to apply our screening platform, XPRESIDENT®, to discover and validate therapeutic targets, gives us a significant advantage for developing efficient TCR-T therapeutics. The heterogeneity of solid tumours and the self-defence mechanisms that they develop to evade the immune system could be tackled by attacking the tumour on multiple targets simultaneously using a pre-manufactured “warehouse” of targets and TCRs. We have successfully shown the feasibility of this warehouse concept with our ACTolog® pilot trial. Our vision is to apply this concept to TCR-T therapies, too. In the short term, we hope to treat patients with multiple TCRs simultaneously, selected from a large TCR warehouse covering multiple types of targets and multiple HLA phenotypes.

EuroBiotech_How big would the market potential be in comparison to blood cancer?
Singh_Blood cancer encompasses various malignancies in the haematopoietic and lymphatic systems. At 10%, these cancers represent a minority, especially in terms of mortality rates. Therefore, the market potential and developmental potential for patients with solid tumours is a lot higher than in blood cancers.
EuroBiotech_Which developmental stage have the TCR-T programs licensed by GSK reached?
Singh_Through our collaboration, GlaxoSmithKline will gain access to two of Immatics’ TCR-T programs. The next generation T-cell receptor therapeutics that will be developed as a result of this collaboration are directed against two proprietary targets that were discovered and vali­dated by Immatics’ XPRESIDENT® technology.

EuroBiotech_Will there be an additional target screening as part of the collaboration in order to agree on further potential drug targets?
Singh_Under the terms of the agreement, GlaxoSmithKline has the option to select additional target programs for further milestone and royalty payments. Proprietary targets for each additional program will be selected and validated using Immatics’ XPRESIDENT® platform.

Harpreet Singh is CEO of Immatics Biotechnologies. He cofounded  Immatics GmbH/Tübingen, Germany in 2000 to translate pioneering scientific discoveries in immunology into cancer immunotherapies as Managing Director and Chief Scientific Officer. In 2015, Dr Singh became President & CEO of Immatics US, overseeing all operations of Immatics in Houston, Texas, to develop next-generation Adoptive Cell Therapies (ACT). He led the team that achieved a US$20m CPRIT grant from the State of Texas. In 2019, Harpreet became CEO of Immatics Biotechnologies. A scholar under Prof. Hans-Georg Rammensee, Singh completed his academic studies by earning a PhD in immunology at the University of Tübingen, Germany.


First published in European Biotechnology Magazine Spring 2020