Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has monetized a portion of its interest in royalties defined by certain licensing agreements related to its Programmed Death Ligand-1 (PD-L1) intellectual property. PD-L1 inhibitors are immuno-oncology drugs used for the treatment of various types of metastatic cancer. CPPIB Credit Europe S.à r.l., a wholly owned subsidiary of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, has paid $100 million upfront to acquire a portion of Dana-Farber’s royalty interests and has committed to pay up to $68 million in additional payments, subject to certain conditions.

“This transaction provides essential funds to support critical cancer research at Dana-Farber,” said Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD, President and CEO of Dana-Farber. “Immunotherapy is one of the most promising areas of oncology research, and we have been making great progress with checkpoint inhibitors based on discoveries in our laboratories over the last few decades,” he said. “These license agreements reflect Dana-Farber’s efforts to make this technology broadly available by non-exclusively licensing to leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies engaged in developing immunotherapy products using PD-L1 antibodies for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune disease.”

Foundational research that made this approach to immunotherapy possible took place at Dana-Farber in the 1990s, led by Dana-Farber scientist Gordon Freeman, PhD. Freeman discovered that a particular protein carried on the surface of many cancer cells and some normal cells helps the cells avoid being attacked by the immune system’s T cells. This protein, PD-L1, does so by interacting with a complementary protein on the surface of the T cells called PD-1. When PD-L1 binds to PD-1 on a T cell, the effect is to inhibit the proliferation of T cells and shut off the T cell’s production of immune-stimulating proteins. This critical checkpoint function is exploited by cancer cells to reduce the immune system’s response against them. By blocking the interaction between PD-L1 and PD-1, cancer immunotherapy can unleash the body’s own T-cells to produce a sustained and more effective attack on cancer cells. Therapeutic antibodies targeting PD-1 have already made a notable impact on cancer treatment, and the first anti-PD-L1 antibody drug was approved by the FDA this year.

MTS Health Partners acted as Dana-Farber’s exclusive financial advisor, Covington & Burling LLP served as special counsel to Dana-Farber for the royalty monetization and Foley Hoag served as IP counsel to Dana-Farber. Further information and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s PD-1-PD-L1 research is available at: www.discovercarebelieve.org/discover-our-breakthroughs/pd-1/.