Astellas to Plug-in-and-Play to Vibrant South San Francisco Immuno-Oncology R&D Ecosystem with Xyphos Buy

Dec 28, 2019 | Acquisition, Astellas, CAR T cell therapy, Immuno-oncology, M&A

Astellas to Plug-in-and-Play to Vibrant South San Francisco Immuno-Oncology R&D Ecosystem with Xyphos Buy

Astellas Pharma Inc. acquired Xyphos Biosciences, Inc. to strengthen its immuno-oncology pipeline. With the acquisition Astellas gains Xyphos’ novel and proprietary ACCEL (Advanced Cellular Control through Engineered Ligands) technology platform, as well as industry-leading immune-oncology talent, to develop new and potentially better ways to mobilize, target and control immune cells to find, modulate and destroy targeted cells throughout the body.

TrialSite News summarizes this event below.

Why is Astella’s underlying strategy driving this acquisition?

Astellas is focusing on immune-oncology as a prime focus of its research and development strategy. As part of this effort moving forward, they seek to master the development of next-generation cancer immune-therapy using new modalities and technologies.

What is it about Xyphos that caught the interest of Astellas?

According to Astellas CEO Kenji Yasukawa, Xyphos has developed an innovative technology that “fits perfectly in advancing Astellas immune-oncology strategy” as the Japanese pharma invests to “deliver value to the patient.” Mr. Yasukawa noted by combining the Xyphos technology with Astellas capabilities in cell therapy, the goal would be to “create next-generation high-function cells” and ultimately maximize the value of the Astellas combined technology.

What has Xyphos Developed in terms of intellectual property?

Xyphos has developed a flexible and versatile synthetic biology platform to direct cells of the immune system to target single or multiple tumor antigens while controlling the immune cell proliferation and endurance. Xyphos’s proprietary molecules can be delivered to natural immune cells or to engineered Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) cells to generate immunotherapies for oncology. Xyphos’ patented CAR technology is based on an engineered modification to a natural human receptor named NKG2D. NKG2D exists on natural killer (NK) cells and some T-cells. The designed modification of NKG2D renders it inert, that is, unable to bind to any of its natural ligands that occur on stressed cells. Through further protein engineering, several natural ligands of NKG2D have been modified to bind exclusively to the otherwise inert NKG2D receptor. Various functional molecules (for example, antibodies that recognize specific tumor antigens) are attached to the modified ligand. The ligand-directed functional molecules then bind exclusively to immune cells expressing the inert CAR on their surface – the proprietary convertibleCAR®-cells. The CAR-cells can be directed by the ligand-bound antibody to seek, become activated, and attack a targeted cancer cell. Xyphos’ first convertibleCAR-T cell product candidate is in preclinical development and scheduled to be tested in a first-in-human clinical study in 2021.

How much is the deal worth?

$120 million will be paid upfront upon the closing of the acquisition. After that, Xyphos will be eligible to receive development milestone payments, making the total deal worth up to $665 million.

About Xyphos

Founded in 2017, Xyphos is a developer of a cell platform created for the deployment of engineered cells of the immune system to destroy cancer cells. The company’s unique platform has created a uniquely modified human receptor that can be selectively controlled using bispecific antibody-like molecules for targeting tumor antigen, enabling patients to access their technology to have the possibility of a durable cure from cancer as it prevents tumor recurrence by enabling target switching or multiplexing.

Xyphos’ pipeline included a handful of assets based on their underlying intellectual property platform—all were in preclinical, hence why the majority of the payout is tied to development milestones.

Who founded Xyphos?

Xyphos was founded by James L Knight (CEO) and David W. Martin (CSO).

Parker Institute Partnership

In 2018 Xyphos partnered with the Parker Institute for Immunotherapy to create universal CAR T therapies to treat multiple cancer types using the company’s convertibleCAR® platform.

Xyphos Comment

CEO James Knighton noted, “Astellas commitment to immune-oncology makes them an ideal partner to advance our proprietary NKG2D-based NK-cell and T-cell platform to the next stage of clinical exploration. Further, we look forward to becoming part of Astellas to accelerate this immune-oncology research and development in the vibrant South San Francisco community.”


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