AbbVie and Genmab have announced a €3.4B collaboration deal that ranks as the second biggest strategic alliance in European biotech in 2020. The partners aim to commercialize three phase I-stage antibody drugs for undisclosed types of solid and liquid cancer.
Upfront, the US AbbVie will pay the Danish biotech €659M, with up to €2.77B available in unspecified developmental, regulatory, and sales milestones.
The two companies will jointly develop and commercialize three of Genmab’s anti-cancer antibody drugs, which are currently in phase I trials. Genmab’s antibody drugs — which are able to target two different target proteins at the same time — work by steering cancer-busting T white blood cells towards tumors and triggering an immune response against the cancer cells.
In time, the partners plan to combine Genmab’s antibody know-how with AbbVie’s antibody-drug conjugate technology, which is designed to reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy drugs by attaching them to tumor-seeking antibodies. The goal is to develop up to four other next-generation treatments capable of targeting solid lumps and blood malignancies.
Of all European biotech deals inked so far in 2020, this is second only in size to the €3.6B agreement struck between UK RNA company Silence Therapeutics and the big pharma AstraZeneca in March.
“This landmark collaboration will help Genmab bring these potential next-generation cancer treatments to more patients, more quickly,” Jan van de Winkel, Genmab CEO, told me.
“Remarkably, this is the 18th partnership within the Genmab portfolio and therapeutic product pipeline. And this is just the beginning for Genmab.”
Genmab is known for developing the blockbuster cancer antibody drug Darzalex in partnership with the big pharma company Janssen. Determined to build on this success, the two partners joined up again last year to create an antibody with the grunt to outdo Darzalex in tackling some blood cancer strains.
Darzalex also may have the potential to treat other diseases as well as cancer. Last month, a combination therapy including the drug met the endpoints of a phase III for the treatment of light-chain amyloidosis. This rare condition sometimes occurs alongside certain types of blood cancer and involves the buildup of proteins in vital organs, sometimes causing organ failure. Furthermore, there are no approved treatments for the condition.
Last year, in a huge IPO that rocked the Nasdaq, the antibodies purveyor raised €450M to boost its drug programs in cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other areas. Though not quite managing to top the €530M IPO raised by US RNA company Moderna in 2018, Genmab’s IPO ranks as one of the largest in biotech history.
Since the end of 2019, Genmab has been working on making antibodies out of the single-stranded RNA molecule messenger RNA with the German firm CureVac. This is the same CureVac whose mRNA technology is now being employed to develop one of the first potential vaccines for Covid-19.
David Wilson is an Anglo-Australian business and tech specialist whose experience in journalism spans two decades. His stories have run everywhere from the South China Morning Post to Slate and The New York Times. In the 20-teens he ran a successful rehousing campaign for an extended Vietnamese family of slum-dwellers. In his spare time, he does strength training and hangs out with domestic cats.
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