US-based Eli Lilly and Company has signed a research collaboration agreement with German firm BioNTech to discover new cancer immunotherapies.

As part of the deal, BioNTech will secure a $30m signing fee, and is eligible to receive around $300m in development, regulatory and commercial milestones for each potential medicine.

BioNTech will also be eligible for tiered royalty payments of up to double-digit, if successfully commercialised.

Under the terms of the deal, Lilly will invest $30m in BioNTech’s subsidiary, Cell & Gene Therapies, which is specialised in the research and development of TCR and chimeric antigen receptor immunotherapeutics.

"The firms intend to use the power of the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells in a bid to create new treatment options for patients."

Lilly oncology research vice-president Dr Greg Plowman said: "Lilly’s partnership with BioNTech represents the next wave of cancer immunotherapy and is focused on the identification of functional T cell receptors that can be used to redirect a patient’s natural immune system to fight cancer."

The firms intend to use the power of the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells in a bid to create new treatment options for patients.

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Both companies will identify and validate new tumour targets and their corresponding T cell receptors (TCRs) in one or more types of cancer.

The tumour targets and TCRs being validated will be engineered and developed into potent and selective cancer therapies.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said: "Lilly’s expertise and track record make it an ideal collaborator for both companies to leverage the full power of BioNTech’s functional T cell receptor technologies to develop novel cancer therapies that harness the immune system."

Image: Eli Lilly headquarters. Photo: courtesy of Guanaco152003.