Roche has acquired UK-based immuno-oncology company Tusk Therapeutics in a deal valued at up to €655m ($759m).

As per the terms of the agreement, Roche will make an upfront payment of €70m to Tusk Therapeutics, followed by contingent payments of up to €585m based on some predetermined milestones.

Tusk Therapeutics’ pipeline consists of an anti-CD25 antibody programme designed to reduce regulatory T-cells (Tregs), which suppress immune responses, even those against cancer cells.

However, the antibody does not affect other immune cells that act against the tumour. It is said to preserve the IL-2 cytokine signalling on effector cells, a key regulator of immune-activation.

In April this year, Tusk Therapeutics reported pre-clinical proof-of-concept data for the anti-CD25 programme in various pre-clinical models. The data was generated in alliance with Cancer Research UK and University College London (UCL).

Findings revealed that the depletion of Tregs with non-IL-2 blocking anti-CD25 antibodies can create potent anti-tumour responses in both monotherapy and combination therapy settings.

“We are delighted that Roche will further develop this novel antibody and drive the development ahead.”

Tusk presented this data at the 2018 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

Following the completion of the acquisition, Roche will be responsible for further development of this antibody.

Tusk Therapeutics CEO Luc Dochez said: “We are delighted that Roche will further develop this novel antibody and drive the development ahead.

“The remaining portfolio of our immune-oncology targets will be further developed by Black Belt Therapeutics, a newly formed company spun out of Tusk Therapeutics.”

The deal follows Roche’s definitive agreement in June this year to buy the outstanding shares of Foundation Medicine for $2.4bn.

This merger is set to focus on research and development of personalised medicines to treat cancer