Roche Decides To not Train Strong Tumor Choice with SQZ

Pictured: Long-distance shot of Roche Tower/iStock, olli0815

Pictured: Lengthy-distance shot of Roche Tower/iStock, olli0815

It’s been a tricky yr for SQZ Biotechnologies. The beleaguered cell remedy firm introduced Tuesday that associate Roche wouldn’t be exercising its strong tumor possibility with SQZ, regardless of promising Part I outcomes, sending the Massachusetts-based biotech scrambling to search out various partnerships.

The 2 corporations partnered again in 2015 and expanded their collaboration by 2018. Underneath the phrases of the 2018 deal, SQZ was eligible for as much as $125 million upfront, with one other $1.25 billion doubtlessly up for grabs ought to merchandise developed out of that partnership hit sure milestones.

Nonetheless, Roche determined it wouldn’t be exercising its possibility for applications focusing on HPV 16 optimistic strong tumors. Because of this, SQZ will regain full medical improvement and future commercialization rights for its applications, in response to Tuesday’s announcement

SQZ’s interim CEO Howard Bernstein mentioned in an announcement that the corporate “intends to discover potential strategic partnerships to assist the development of its oncology applications and platforms.”

The announcement comes regardless of encouraging, although restricted, Part I outcomes. In March 2023, SQZ introduced that it had noticed a “confirmed full response” within the first affected person of its lowest-dose cohort within the SQZ-AAC-HPV-101 trial. 

SQZ and Roche had been creating merchandise based mostly on antigen presenting cells (APC), which primarily work by priming the immune system’s killer T cells to “doubtlessly drive antitumor exercise,” the corporate mentioned. The Part I trial was investigating the remedy for remedy of HPV 16 optimistic superior or metastatic tumors.

This isn’t the one dangerous information the biotech has gotten just lately. SQZ ended 2022 by slashing 60% of its workforce and bringing in Bernstein as interim CEO as the corporate shifted gears from its first-generation APCs to its second-generation enhanced APCs (EAPC) cell remedy program aimed toward HPV 16 optimistic tumors.

The layoffs value SQZ an estimated $5 million however prolonged its runway, with its third-quarter monetary report projecting its $84.2 million in money and money equivalents can be sufficient to final till the tip of 2023. Nonetheless, the corporate additionally put different applications on ice. In late November 2022, SQZ mentioned it was going to pause applications that use its APC, lively antigen service and tolerizing antigen service (TAC) applications.

The transfer wasn’t in style with shareholders, and the inventory worth shortly fell to simply over $2 a share. That received worse, with the corporate inventory falling beneath $1 per share for over 30 consecutive days, prompting the New York Inventory Change (NYSE) to place the corporate on discover that it was out of compliance. That discover additionally gave SQZ six months to reverse its plunging inventory worth. Nonetheless, by July 3, the NYSE began delisting proceedings towards the corporate.

“As we transfer into the second half of this yr, we’re dedicated to assessing the entire Firm’s potential strategic alternate options in an effort to advance our applications,” Bernstein mentioned.

Connor Lynch is a contract author based mostly in Ottawa, Canada. Attain him at [email protected].

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