French Biotech Strikes Deal with Novo Nordisk for New Cancer Drug

Innate Pharma Novo Nordisk IPH5401 deal

Novo Nordisk has handed over its anti-cancer antibody to Innate Pharma in a new deal that could earn the diabetes specialist up to €370M in milestones.

The immuno-oncology biotech Innate Pharma has in-licensed a new clinical-stage antibody candidate from Novo Nordisk to reinforce its position in the crowded space. In exchange for its anti-C5aR antibody, IPH5401, Novo Nordisk gets a bigger stake in the company.

Innate Pharma will receive €40M from Novo, of which €37.2M will be paid in new shares, making Novo’s stake in the company jump to around 16%. Should the new candidate reach the market, Novo is eligible to receive a massive €370M in milestone payments as well as double-digit royalties on sales.

Novo has already wrapped up two Phase I trials with the antibody in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, where the drug presented with a sound safety profile. “We believe anti-C5aR has a high potential for cancer patients in multiple indications and look forward to beginning clinical development of this promising asset in 2018,” commented Mondher Mahjoubi, CEO of Innate Pharma, in the press release.


The new antibody targets the C5a receptors expressed on subsets of the myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) and neutrophils. These cells play a major role in bolstering tumor growth by promoting angiogenesis and potently suppressing anti-tumor T and NK cells. Also, the cells are thought to be associated with resistance to checkpoint blockers.

The new deal is well-timed since Innate Pharma saw its BMS-partnered checkpoint inhibitor lirilumab fail Phase II in patients with AML earlier this year. Yet, the biotech still has high hopes for 6 other trials currently running with lirilumab.

Innate Pharma currently has 12 clinical trials running, including another checkpoint inhibitor, monalizumab, as part of a partnership with AstraZeneca. Should the anti-NKG2A antibody get approval, the French biotech could receive a massive €1.2B.

Images via / vitstudio and

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