Gilead Sciences (GILD) and Gritstone (GRTS) Announce Pact Utilizing Gritstone's Vaccine Platform Technology for HIV Cure

February 1, 2021 6:20 AM EST

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Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD) and Gritstone Oncology, Inc. (Nasdaq: GRTS), a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing next generation cancer and infectious disease immunotherapies, today announced that the companies have entered into a collaboration, option and license agreement to research and develop a vaccine-based immunotherapy as part of Gilead’s efforts to find a curative treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

Gilead and Gritstone will develop an HIV-specific therapeutic vaccine using Gritstone’s proprietary prime-boost vaccine platform, comprised of self-amplifying mRNA (SAM) and adenoviral vectors, with antigens developed by Gilead.

“While HIV treatment has advanced dramatically over the past three decades, people living with HIV still face a lifetime of therapy,” said Diana Brainard, MD, Senior Vice President, Virology Therapeutic Area, Gilead Sciences. “Curing HIV remains the ultimate aspiration for Gilead’s HIV research and development efforts. Gritstone’s vaccine technology has the potential to educate the immune system to specifically recognize and destroy HIV-infected cells by leveraging SAM and adenoviral vectors. This, along with our other partnerships and internal programs, reflects Gilead’s commitment to continuing innovation to discover a cure for HIV and bring about an end to the HIV epidemic.”

“We are excited to be partnering with Gilead, a company that has decades long experience improving care for people living with HIV, to advance a novel immunotherapy using our proprietary platform for the treatment of HIV infection,” said Andrew Allen, MD, PhD, Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gritstone. “It is well-established that CD8+ T cells are critical for the elimination of virally infected cells, and we have built a highly differentiated vaccine platform that has been shown to generate large numbers of antigen-specific T cells, including CD8+ T cells, even in advanced and immunocompromised cancer patients. On the heels of our recent COVID-19 program initiation in partnership with the NIH, this program adds to our growing infectious disease pipeline supported by collaborations with leading biopharma and renowned institutions.”

“Delivery of viral antigens in potent vaccine vectors to elicit a strong immune response is a cornerstone of successful infectious disease vaccines,” said Karin Jooss, PhD, Executive Vice President of Research and Chief Scientific Officer of Gritstone. “Our preclinical work at Gritstone developing our powerful prime-boost vaccine technology utilized simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) derived antigens as model antigens, which are very similar to HIV-1. The resulting strong, durable and broad anti-SIV CD8+ T cell responses and T cell memory data captured the attention of Gilead’s virology team. We jointly performed further experiments that generated additional compelling data, which was also complemented by our exciting clinical data with neoantigens in cancer patients. We are delighted to now advance our partnership and product candidates for the treatment of patients with HIV infection.”

Terms of the Agreement

Under the terms of the agreement, Gilead will make a $60 million payment at closing, consisting of a $30 million upfront cash payment and a $30 million equity investment at a premium. Gilead will be responsible for conducting a Phase 1 study for the HIV-specific therapeutic vaccine and holds an exclusive option under the collaboration to obtain an exclusive license to develop and commercialize the HIV-specific therapeutic vaccine beyond Phase 1. Gritstone is also eligible to receive up to an additional $725 million if the option is exercised and if certain clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones are achieved, as well as mid single-digit to low double-digit tiered royalties on net sales upon commercialization.

Locust Walk served as transaction advisor to Gritstone.

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