Gilead Sciences has signed an exclusive agreement with Israel-based Compugen to license the latter’s potential first-in-class, pre-clinical antibody programme, including the COM503 drug candidate.

Compugen finds new pharmacological targets and biological pathways for creating cancer immunotherapies by using its predictive computational discovery capabilities.

COM503 is a potential first-in-class, high affinity antibody that inhibits the progression of cancer by releasing endogenous IL-18 in the tumour microenvironment.

The drug asset is designed to block the interaction between IL-18 binding protein and IL-18.

As per the agreement, Compugen will oversee COM503’s future Phase 1 trial as well as its continuous pre-clinical development.

After this, Gilead will be authorised to create and market COM503.

Gilead Sciences research executive vice president Flavius Martin said: “We are very pleased to add COM503 to our pipeline of investigational immuno-oncology therapies that have the potential to transform care for patients with cancer.

“We believe that this collaboration complements our strategy of developing modalities which promote immune-mediated tumour killing and may enable new combination therapies with programmes in our growing oncology portfolio.”

The American pharmaceutics firm has agreed to pay Compugen $60m up front and an additional $30m as a near-term milestone, subject to investigational new drug (IND) application clearance of COM503, which is anticipated in 2024.

The total consideration for this deal is around $848m, including potential milestone payments of up to $758m in development, regulatory, and commercial domains.

Additionally, Compugen will be qualified to receive tiered royalties on global net sales ranging from low double digits to single digits.

Compugen president and CEO Anat Cohen-Dayag said: “We are delighted to enter into this collaboration with Gilead and believe that Gilead’s confidence in our differentiated approach to harness cytokine biology for cancer therapeutics speaks to the quality of our computational discovery capabilities as well as our ability to translate our novel discoveries into investigational drugs in the clinic and we look forward to working together to bring new treatment options to patients.”