Juno Therapeutics threw out its lead CAR-T program back in March, it now has granted itself a potential lifeline: three license agreements that will help the company develop a combo treatment for multiple myeloma.
The deals, signed with Eli Lilly, OncoTracker and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, are focusing on enhancing the development of a multiple myeloma therapy combining BCMA-directed CAR-T cells in combination with gamma secretase inhibitors (GSIs).
The enzyme gamma secrease cuts a group of transmembrane proteins, including BCMA, or B-cell maturation antigen. Research showed that GSI’s could increase the expression of BCMA on tumor cells, specifically in multiple myeloma, the company reported. Junio is waging that adding GSIs to a BCMA-targeting CAR-T therapy will enhance its potency.
With this agreement with Lilly, Juno will capture a license to Lilly’s GSI, LY3039478. The deals with OncoTracker and Fred Hutch provide Juno with the exclusive rights to intellectual property in the realm of combinations of GSIs and BCMA-driven engineered T cells.
“These licenses open up an important approach to improve the activity and outcomes for CAR T cells targeted at BCMA,” stated Sunil Agarwal, M.D., Juno’s president of research and development. “We plan to begin clinical trials in 2018 combining a gamma secretase inhibitor with our BCMA CAR T product candidates.”
Juno is currently out there looking for a phase 1 trial investigating the use of its BCMA-directed CAR-T cells along with its chemotherapy drug lenalidomide. It then shifted its attention to another drug; this drug is for relapsed or refractory aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Just this past June, the company reported positive results from a phase 1 dose- finding study of the drug, JCAR017.