AbbVie and Umoja Biopharma to develop novel in-situ CAR-T cell therapies

AbbVie and Umoja Biopharma, an early clinical-stage biotechnology company, have announced two exclusive option and license agreements to develop multiple in-situ generated CAR-T cell therapy candidates in oncology using Umoja’s VivoVecTMplatform.

The first agreement provides AbbVie an exclusive option to license Umoja’s CD19 directed in-situ generated CAR-T cell therapy candidates. This includes UB-VV111, Umoja’s lead clinical program for hematologic malignancies currently at the IND-enabling phase. Under the terms of the second agreement, AbbVie and Umoja will develop up to four additional in-situ generated CAR-T cell therapy candidates for discovery targets selected by AbbVie.

“As we continue to strengthen our oncology portfolio, we believe that in-situ CAR-T cell therapy represents a paradigm shift utilizing genetic medicine concepts,” said Jonathon Sedgwick, Ph.D., vice president and global head of discovery research at AbbVie. “We look forward to working with Umoja’s team to advance next-generation in-situ CAR-T therapies, and potentially expand the patient populations and indications benefitting from conventional CAR-T approaches.”

Umoja’s VivoVecTM gene delivery platform combines third generation lentiviral vector gene delivery with a novel T-cell targeting and activation surface complex. This enables T cells in the body to manufacture their own cancer-fighting CAR-T cells in vivo. This has the potential to eliminate a number of challenges associated with traditional CAR-T approaches including reliance on gathering a patient’s own or donor cells which are modified externally before being delivered back to the patient, the associated time lag and manufacturing challenges of ex vivo cell modification, and the need for patient’s lymphodepletion.

“AbbVie is an ideal partner for Umoja given their broad expertise in development and commercialization of novel therapeutics in hematology, oncology, and beyond,” said David Fontana, Ph.D., chief operating and business officer at Umoja.

“By bringing together AbbVie’s like-minded pursuit of addressing patient unmet needs with our investments in vector biology and fully-owned commercial-scale manufacturing, we look forward to progressing multiple VivoVec™ drug candidates into the clinic in the coming years,” added Andrew Scharenberg, M.D., co-founder and chief executive officer at Umoja.

Under the terms of the two agreements, Umoja received upfront payments and an equity investment from AbbVie. Additionally, for the two agreements combined, Umoja may be eligible to receive up to $1.44bn in aggregate for option exercise fees, development and regulatory milestones, with the potential for Umoja to earn additional sales-based milestones and tiered royalties on worldwide net sales.

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