Roche (Genentech) entered into a $1 billion deal with NewLink Genetics, a company with an IDO (indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase) inhibitor. IDO is secreted by cancer cells and Treg cells – it causes the oxidation of tryptophan, which cytotoxic T-cells need. Thus, IDO acts like a checkpoint control mechanism that abrogates the immune response. Several companies – Incyte, BMS, and Regen BioPharma – are developing IDO inhibitors.
NewLink’s NLG919 is in Phase 1 testing. Roche paid $150 MM upfront to NewLink. The companies will collaborate on the development of second generation IDO inhibitors, as well.