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Gilead Sciences Acquires Remaining Rights to Anti-CCR8 Antibody From Jounce Therapeutics

NEW YORK – Gilead Sciences on Tuesday said it is buying the remaining contingent payments it may owe to Jounce Therapeutics under their license agreement for the anti-CCR8 antibody GS-1811.

The companies inked an exclusive licensing deal in 2020 for GS-1811, previously dubbed JTX-1811, which is a monoclonal antibody that binds to CCR8, a chemokine receptor found on tumor-infiltrating T regulatory cells. GS-1811 is designed to target tumor-infiltrating T regulatory cells for depletion.

Under that earlier deal, Gilead paid Jounce $85 million upfront and made a $35 million equity investment when the transaction closed. Jounce was also eligible to receive $685 million upon meeting certain clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones, and high-single-digit to mid-teen royalties on worldwide sales.

Gilead and Jounce have now decided to amend that earlier contract and have Gilead take responsibility for further R&D and commercialization of GS-1811. In exchange, Jounce will receive $67 million but is no longer eligible for the remaining $645 million in contingent payments.

Researchers are currently investigating GS-1811's safety, tolerability, and maximum tolerated dose in a Phase I trial involving patients with solid tumors. That study will enroll around 160 patients into four arms, two in which patients receive GS-1811 monotherapy and two in which they receive GS-1811 plus an anti-PD-1 drug, Arcus Bio's zimberelimab. In one of the GS-1811 monotherapy arms, involving patients with refractory solid tumors who are out of other effective treatment options, study participants must provide pre- and on-treatment biopsies for biomarker analysis.

The deal benefits both parties, allowing Gilead to bolster its cancer therapeutics pipeline with a potentially first-in-class immunotherapy and Jounce access to cash during difficult economic times for life sciences firms. "This transaction allows us to extend our runway and remain focused on delivering meaningful and long-lasting benefits to cancer patients," Jounce CEO and President Richard Murray said in a statement. "It was important for Jounce at this time to bolster our cash resources given challenges in capital markets for biotech companies."

Gilead expects this transaction will reduce its GAAP and non-GAAP 2022 EPS by approximately $.04.

"Today's news about GS-1811 further demonstrates our commitment to our rapidly evolving oncology franchise and mission of pioneering next-generation medicines for people with cancer," Bill Grossman, senior VP and therapeutic area head at Gilead Oncology, said in statement. "GS-1811, with its potential new pathway of activating the immune system, gives us the opportunity to potentially change the standard of care with a treatment that works from inside cancerous cells to shrink solid tumors."