Poseida Therapeutics, Inc.’s gene and cell therapy technology has been given “validation” by Big Pharma. On Aug. 3, the company announced it had entered into a broad strategic collaboration and license agreement with Roche worth a potential $6 billion.
“This is one of the biggest deals that’s been done in cell therapy recently,” said Poseida CEO Mark Gergen. “It’s a huge validation of our technology.”
Under the agreement with Roche, Poseida (NASDAQ: PSTX) will receive $110 million upfront and could receive up to $110 million in near-term milestones and other payments in the next several years.
“We actually think of this like a $220 million deal because we think that the $110 million in milestones are near-term and highly achievable,” Gergen said.
In addition, Poseida is eligible to receive research, development, launch and net sales milestones and other payments potentially up to $6 billion in aggregate value, as well as tiered net sales royalties into the low double digits, across multiple programs.
“It is a large deal by cell therapy standards and obviously why we’re pretty excited about it,” Gergen added.
Roche will receive from Poseida either exclusive rights or options to develop and commercialize several of the company’s allogeneic CAR-T programs in its portfolio that are directed to blood cancers, including an allogeneic CAR-T for the treatment of multiple myeloma which currently has a Phase 1 study underway; as well as an allogeneic dual CAR-T for the treatment of B-cell malignancies with an IND expected in 2023.
The companies will also collaborate in a research program to create and develop next-generation features and improvements for allogeneic CAR-T therapies, from which they would jointly develop additional allogeneic CAR-T product candidates.
“We are excited to partner with Poseida to further explore the potential of allogeneic cell therapies to transform cancer care by developing off-the-shelf products that can address high unmet medical needs for a broad patient population,” said James Sabry, global head of pharma partnering at Roche. “Poseida’s differentiated platform technologies complement our ongoing internal efforts and partnerships to discover and develop cell therapies as a next generation of medicines for patients.”
Poseida’s differentiated platform technologies are all proprietary and made “in-house,” Gergen said. “And that’s actually very unique in our industry.”
“Another key difference is that most companies use virus-based gene delivery technologies that are now over 30 years old in some cases and Poseida is moving away from virus toward non-viral technology because there are a lot of issues associated with using viral technologies,” Gergen said. “If the pandemic taught us nothing else it’s that viruses are bad. So we try to avoid viral-based technologies.”
Beyond the delivery technology, Poseida also differentiates itself in its choice of stem cells it uses in its products, focusing on the “most powerful” type of T-cells in fighting disease.
“In our allogeneic CAR-T products, our final product is about 50 to 70 percent stem cell memory T-cells and the rest are more differentiated cells,” he said. “The highest number I’ve ever seen from a competitor is 6 or 7 percent. So our product is just fundamentally different from others and it’s different because of the technology we use.”
The cells are also specially edited to keep them from attacking the body and the body attacking them. “We do this double editing so that we don’t have to continue to keep the patients’ immune-suppressed because that’s also a safety issue,” Gergen said.
Poseida also has its own proprietary gene editing platform that Gergen described as “the cleanest gene-editing system available in the world today.”
“We own these technologies,” he said. If companies partner with us, we have the technology – it’s sort of an all-in-one solution and I think that’s very attractive to Big Pharma.”
Roche’s attraction to Poseida’s solutions comes under a year from another Big Pharma company giving validation to the company’s technology. Last October, Poseida inked a deal with Takeda worth potentially up to $3.6 billion to develop in vivo gene therapies in several different indications.
“When we did the deal with Takeda last October, that was our first large company validation,” Gergen said. “Takeda saw the promise in our tools and they stepped in. Clearly now, two very large, sophisticated companies have jumped in and embraced Poseida’s technology.”
Roche jumping in is a big deal for Poseida, according to Gergen, not only because of the size of its potential payout, but because Roche is known for being “scientifically discerning.”
“Before they did the deal with us, we can assume they looked at other technologies and they chose to partner with us and not for just one product, they chose a broad platform partnership,” he said. “We’re excited about it because with both of these collaborations we can and will do a lot more for patients and developing drugs than we could have possibly done if it was just us.”
Poseida Therapeutics, Inc.
CEO: Mark Gergen
Headquarters: San Diego, UTC
Stock: PSTX (NASDAQ)
Business: Genetic engineering platform company developing cell and gene therapies
Notable: In less than a year, Poseida has signed deals with two of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.