good has raised just over $30 million since it was founded in 2016. The company focuses on cytokines, which are proteins that can regulate the body’s immune response against cancer cells and cause tumor cells to die.
The Swiss pharmaceutical giant believes this deal will strengthen its cancer immunotherapy pipeline. Both companies expressed confidence that Good’s preclinical cancer program has the potential to produce oncology drugs that target PD-1 proteins — such as Merck’s Keytruda or Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo – more efficient.
Infusing cancer patients with cytokines is a way to kill their cancer cells, but that would cause an overly aggressive immune response—the rush of inflammatory proteins would be too toxic for most patients to handle. Good’s flagship program is designed to solve this conundrum. The biotechnology creates inactive molecules of the cytokine IL-2 and equips these molecules with a sensor to localize PD-1, a protein found in cancer cells. In mouse studies, Good’s modified IL-2 cytokines entered the body without causing toxicity, being activated only after they came into contact with PD-1.
Under the merger deal, Roche will assume responsibility for the development and commercialization of Good’s lead program. Roche is the perfect candidate to take this program forward, John Mulligan, CEO and founder of Good, said in an interview. He pointed out that Roche has already put three different types of IL-2 immunocytokines into clinical trials.
“Roche has demonstrated a real investment in and tenacious pursuit of IL-2 immunocytokines,” Mulligan said. “Their long-term commitment to IL-2 really gives us confidence that they will invest the necessary resources to make this a truly successful drug.”
Biotechnology continuing bear market had no role in the deal, according to Mulligan. He said Roche and Goode “started in earnest” on the merger last summer, before the industry downturn.
The deal makes Good also eligible to receive additional payments based on product milestones. The cash price of the deal already gives Good’s benefactors – which include RiverVest Venture Partners, Codon Capital and Digitalis Ventures — more than eight times return on investment.
The acquisition gives Roche the rights to Good’s flagship program only. The rest of the biotech’s assets will go to a new spinout, Bonum Therapeutics (bonum is Latin for “good”). Mulligan will continue as CEO of Bonum.
“Our thought from the beginning was to try to sell the first asset we developed for long-term capital gains and then roll out the platform,” he stated.
Although the company has primarily focused on its PD-1-regulated immunocytokine, it has been working on other cytokine programs “in the background” for the past two years. Good’s 26 employees will transition to Bonum and begin progressing in those other programs once the acquisition is finalized, according to Mulligan.
The deal is scheduled to close in the third quarter of this year.
Photo: Good Therapeutics