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Nektar and SFJ collaborate to develop experimental head and neck cancer drug

Published on 18/02/21 at 11:41am

Nektar Therapeutics has announced a financing and co-development collaboration with SFJ Pharmaceuticals to support the development of Bempegaldesleukin (BEMPEG), an investigational CD122-preferential IL-2–pathway agonist. 

SFJ Pharmaceuticals is a global drug development company backed by Abingworth and Blackstone Life Sciences.

The collaboration between the two companies will support a new Phase II/III registrational clinical study of the experimental anti-cancer drug plus pembrolizumab in patients with head and neck cancer whose tumours express PD-L1.

Under the terms of the agreement, SFJ will fund up to $150 million to manage clinical trial operations and support the Phase II/III study until its completion, while Nektar will serve as the sponsor of the study.

Nektar agrees to pay SFJ success-based annual milestone payments over a period of seven to eight years, which are contingent upon receipt of certain US regulatory approvals for specified indications for BEMPEG, and will begin following completion of the head and neck study that is projected to be in 2024. If BEMPEG does not receive regulatory approval for one or more of the specified indications, the company will not owe any future payments linked to an indication that is not approved.

Howard Robin, President and CEO of Nektar Therapeutics, said: “The collaboration with SFJ provides Nektar with substantial, non-dilutive funding to broaden the registrational programme for BEMPEG.

“SFJ's global drug development and clinical trial management expertise, coupled with a track record of success in accelerating and advancing late-stage development programmes for global pharmaceutical companies, make them an ideal partner.”

Bob DeBenedetto, CEO of SFJ, also commented: “We are excited to be partnering with Nektar under this novel financing and co-development agreement.

“Based on the strength of the clinical data generated to date for BEMPEG in melanoma and other tumour types, and following an extensive diligence process conducted in conjunction with our partners at Blackstone Life Sciences and Abingworth, we believe that BEMPEG has great potential to help cancer patients. We look forward to supporting the Phase III study and working closely with the Nektar team.”

Darcy Jimenez

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