In one of the largest oncology partnerships ever, AbbVie and Genmab are teaming up to accelerate development and commercialization of three of the Danish biotech’s investigational bispecific antibody drugs and potentially develop more.
North Chicago, IL-based AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) is spending $750 million up front to kick off the effort, which involves two clinical-stage drugs, one in preclinical research. The alliance also includes a discovery agreement that could add up to four new antibodies.
Potential milestone payments make Genmab (NASDAQ: GMAB) eligible for up to $3.15 billion more—$1.15 billion tied to the three existing drugs and $2 billion connected with the discovery deal.
Genmab has a history of working with other companies to advance its experimental treatments, having inked a total of 18 strategic partnerships including the one announced Wednesday. This one, however, could lead it to become a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company, for the first time playing a role in commercialization of its own product.
Bispecific antibody drugs are designed to hit two or more targets on cells instead of just one. The investigational drug at the center of the deal, epcoritamab, or DuoBody-CD3xCD20, is in clinical testing as a treatment for multiple hematological B cell malignancies.
Under the deal terms, if that drug is approved Genmab will book revenue from sales in the US and Japan, while AbbVie will lead commercialization elsewhere. Genmab will be eligible for royalties from sales outside the US and Japan.
The two companies will share responsibilities for global development and commercialization responsibilities for the two other “next-generation” bispecific antibodies involved in the deal, clinical-stage drug DuoHexaBody-CD37 and preclinical drug candidate DuoBody-CD3x5T4, in the US and Japan. Genmab will have the option to join its partner in commercializing the drugs elsewhere.
The option is an important element of the deal given its potential to allow the biotech to broaden its commercial footprint, the company’s chief financial officer, Anthony Pagano, said on a conference call.
Through the discovery collaboration the companies aim to develop up to four more antibody therapeutics for cancer using Genmab’s DuoBody technology, which engages and selectively directs cytotoxic T cells to tumors to elicit an immune response towards cancerous cells, and AbbVie’s antibody drug conjugate technologies, which facilitates delivery of a therapeutic toxin directly to cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. For those programs Genmab will conduct Phase 1 studies, and AbbVie will have the right to opt-in to program development.
Genmab today has three approved products, all developed through collaborations: Its multiple myeloma drug daratumumab (Darzalex) is marketed by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) unit Janssen Biotech; its thyroid eye disease treatment teprotumumab-trbw (Tepezza), by Horizon Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HZNP) via a sublicense with Roche; and ofatumumab (Arzerra), OK’d in certain territories for some chronic lymphocytic leukemia indications, by Novartis (NYSE: NVS). Genmab has also teamed up with Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN), BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX), and ADC Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ADCT) on clinical-stage programs.
AbbVie isn’t a stranger to such deals either, having split the rights to two of its cancer drugs, ibrutinib (Imbruvica) and venetoclax (Venclexta) with J&J (through its 2015 acquisition of Pharmacyclics) and Roche, respectively.
The agreement announced Wednesday prompted Genmab to boost its estimated revenue for 2020 because it plans to book most of the cash it is receiving up front this year, increasing its forecast by DKK 4,350 million (about $663 million) to DKK 9,100 million to DKK 9,500 million (about $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion).
The company joined the Nasdaq exchange last year, raising about $506 million in its offering.