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Nektar Collaborates With SFJ Pharma For Bempegaldesleukin In Head And Neck Cancer

Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR) said that it has reached a financing and co-development collaboration with SFJ Pharmaceuticals to support the development of Bempegaldesleukin or BEMPEG, an investigational CD122-preferential IL-2-pathway agonist.

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

The collaboration between SFJ and Nektar will support a new Phase 2/3 registrational clinical study of BEMPEG plus pembrolizumab in patients with head and neck cancer whose tumors express PD-L1.

As per the terms of the new deal, SFJ will fund up to $150 million for the Phase 2/3 study until its completion. In return, 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 U.S. 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, Nektar will not owe any future payments linked to an indication that is not approved.

In a separate press release, Nektar Therapeutics said that it has reached a clinical trial collaboration and supply agreement with Merck & Co Inc. (MRK) for a Phase 2/3 study of bempegaldesleukin (NKTR-214, BEMPEG), Nektar's investigational IL-2 pathway agent, in combination with Merck's KEYTRUDA or pembrolizumab for first-line treatment of patients with metastatic or unresectable recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck or SCCHN whose tumors express PD-L1.

The study is planned to start in the second half of 2021.

As per the terms of the deal, Nektar will conduct the phase 2/3 study, which is expected to enroll 500 patients with metastatic or recurrent SCCHN with PD-L1 expressing tumors. Patients will be randomized to receive either the combination of BEMPEG plus pembrolizumab or pembrolizumab alone.

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