BioNTech will both work alongside Ryvu and enter into an exclusive license agreement for the latter’s STING agonist portfolio.
The German company will develop the standalone small molecule as monotherapies and in combination treatments, for which it will have global licensing and the right to commercialize any resulting therapies.
According to Ryvu, its standalone STING (stimulator of interferon genes) treatments are at the discovery phase, but are moving towards preclinical studies. The company states that the STING protein is one of the factors in the innate immune activation being a trigger of type I interferon and pro-inflammatory cytokines.
STING agonists are able to help cancer antigen recognition specific to individual patients and their tumors, potentially helping to create a targeted immunotherapy. Further than this, STING agonists promote tumor infiltration by CD8+ T cells, immune system mobilization, and long-term memory.
The second part of the partnership between the companies sees them collaborate to develop multiple small molecule programs directed at exclusive targets chosen by BioNTech, with a focus on immune modulation within oncology, and other unspecified disease areas.
Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, said, “The collaboration with Ryvu provides us with the opportunity to complement our immunotherapy pipeline with a portfolio of potent immunomodulatory molecules.”
Though BioNTech’s most notable success has been in mRNA vaccines, through its partnership with Pfizer, the company also holds a broad portfolio of other types of treatment, including monoclonal antibodies, cell therapies, and small molecule immunomodulators.
In the latter category, it currently possesses one drug candidate in BNT411, which is a TLR7 agonist designed to activate both the adaptive and innate immune system for the treatment of solid tumors. By licensing Ryvu’s portfolio and attempting to discover more, BioNTech is seeking to expand this portfolio of small molecules that could add to the functions of other therapies in its pipeline.
The terms of the agreement between the two companies sees BioNTech pay an upfront fee of €20m ($20.8m) for the two previously mentioned activities, in licensing and co-development, as well as a €20m equity investment.
During the R&D activities, BioNTech will fund all discovery, research, and development activities – alongside the upfront and equity investment, Ryvu will be eligible to further unspecified milestone payments and low single-digit royalties on the annual net sales of any products commercialized.