Dragonfly Therapeutics and Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) announced an expanded partnership focused on discovering and developing treatment candidates for multiple sclerosis (MS) and neuroinflammation targets.
The companies have been working together in therapy research and development for cancer and autoimmune diseases using Dragonfly’s proprietary immunotherapy targeting platform.
Under the expanded agreement, Dragonfly is giving BMS the option to license exclusive global intellectual property rights to multiple potential treatments developed using its platform, whose targets include those playing a role in MS.
Dragonfly will be given $55 million upfront, and is eligible for additional payments related to development, regulatory and sales milestones, and prospective royalties on sales of therapies that go on to be approved for commercial use.
“Bristol Myers Squibb was our first partner, and their team has been spectacular to work with,” Bill Haney, co-founder and CEO of Dragonfly Therapeutics, said in a press release. “We are eager to move together into completely novel indications for our platform, and inspired about the opportunity to help patients with multiple sclerosis and neuro-inflammatory diseases.”
Dragonfly uses its TriNKET technology, which harnesses the immune system, to develop therapies based on natural killer cells. As part of the innate immune system, these cells take on viruses, parasites, and tumors. They also activate other immune cells, which go on to mount a response.
Oncology was Dragonfly’s initial immunotherapy focus. According to the company, formed in 2015, cancer was a first target because many existing treatments are ineffective and carry harmful side effects.
“We are pleased to expand our research collaboration with Dragonfly in new therapeutic areas, beyond oncology and autoimmune diseases to include multiple sclerosis and neuro-inflammation, and to work with the team to develop drug candidates that may result in new therapies for patients,” said Richard Hargreaves, senior vice president of neuroscience at BMS.
The role of neuroinflammation — characterized by the infiltration of immune cells, activation of glial cells, and production of inflammatory mediators in the peripheral and central nervous system — is becoming increasingly important across neurology.
Multiple sclerosis affects an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide. This neurodegenerative disorder is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the myelin sheath, the protective protein coat around nerve fibers. Limiting inflammation is a treatment goal.
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