Life Sciences Insight

Bristol Myers keeps Obsidian cell therapy pact rocking with multiyear extension

Bristol Myers Squibb has an exclusive option to in-license the global rights to cell therapy candidates.

Bristol Myers Squibb has inked a multiyear extension to its collaboration with Obsidian Therapeutics, securing itself the exclusive option to license cell therapies that use its partner’s technology to control the expression of CD40L.

Celgene partnered with Obsidian early in 2019, just weeks after accepting a $74 billion buyout bid from Bristol Myers. Interest in the partnership survived the change of ownership, with Bristol Myers taking up its option to license a cell therapy candidate based on Obsidian’s technology in 2020 and now extending the collaboration.

“We are delighted to extend our productive strategic partnership with Bristol Myers Squibb, an industry leader in the field, to advance next-generation cell therapies to patients with solid tumors and other malignancies,” Obsidian CEO Paul Wotton, Ph.D., said in a statement. “This announcement comes at an exciting time for Obsidian as our own lead program using cytoDRiVE technology enters the clinic.”

The multiyear collaboration extension secures Bristol Myers an exclusive option to in-license the global rights to cell therapy candidates that use Obsidian’s cytoDRiVE tech to control the expression of the immune enhancer CD40L. The technology platform is Obsidian’s answer to the question of how to enhance and control cell therapies.  

Using the platform, Obsidian gets cells to produce fusion proteins with drug-responsive domain (DRD) tags. Under normal circumstances, an enzyme degrades the tag, but the presence of a FDA-approved small molecule ligand stabilizes the DRD. The system means protein expression is tied to the levels of the ligand, making it both titratable and reversible. 

Internally, Obsidian is applying the technology to candidates including cytoTIL15, a tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy that is designed to work without using IL-2 to support the growth and activity of the cells.