Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Jounce Therapeutics (NASDAQ: JNCE) has announced that the rights to anti-LILRB2 antibody candidate JTX-8064 have been restored from Bristol-Myers Squibb. The news follows the establishment of a License Agreement that transitioned the rights to JTX-8064 to Celgene in July of 2019.
However, Bristol-Myers Squibb, which acquired Celgene earlier this year, decided to terminate the agreement due to overlap in its drug pipeline. According to Jounce’s press release, “Beyond transition costs and efforts, neither Bristol Myers Squibb or Jounce have any further financial or service obligations to one another. All Jounce intellectual property rights pertaining to JTX-8064 and licensed to Celgene have been reacquired by Jounce.”
“We are thrilled to regain the rights to JTX-8064 and we view this as a significant opportunity for Jounce. Though we highly valued our longstanding partnership with Celgene, now a Bristol Myers Squibb company, having an additional wholly-owned program enables us to further our mission to discover new immunotherapies from a variety of important immune cell types, and develop them for patients who are not well served by today’s therapies,” stated Chief Executive Officer and President of Jounce Therapeutics Richard Murray, PhD.
“The discovery and development of JTX-8064 showcases the strength of our Translational Science Platform in target identification, and our ability to move programs towards the clinic in a rapid manner.”
“In particular, we believe that LILRB2 may function as an immune checkpoint for macrophages and based on our body of existing preclinical data, JTX-8064 has the potential to re-program tumor-associated macrophages within the tumor microenvironment and enhance anti-tumor immunity. We are eager to advance this program into the clinic and will make every effort to do this expeditiously,” Dr. Murray continued.
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JTX-8064 targets an inhibitory receptor protein known as Leukocyte Immunoglobulin Like Receptor B2 (LILRB2). By engaging LILRB2, JTX-8064 prevents the negative regulation of the anti-cancer immune response.
While LILRB2 is expressed on the surface of monocytes, dendritic cells, and macrophages, Jounce states that JTX-8064 is “a highly-selective, potential first-in-class antibody that targets the Leukocyte Immunoglobulin Like Receptor B2 (LILRB2) on macrophages” and is being develop as “a novel immunotherapy to reprogram immune-suppressive macrophages and enhance anti-tumor immunity.”