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AbbVie Joins Myeloma Race with $90M Deal for Rights to Teneobio Drug

Xconomy San Francisco — 

AbbVie is paying $90 million up front for rights to a multiple myeloma drug from Teneobio that’s now being prepared for tests in humans.

The Teneobio drug, TNB383B, is the first to come out of the labs of the Menlo Park, CA, biotech. Under the deal, AbbVie has the right to develop the drug after it completes Phase 1 testing. AbbVie would pay milestones pegged to the progress of the drug, plus royalties if it reaches the market. Additional details of those payments weren’t disclosed.

Teneobio already has research partnerships with larger companies, including Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) subsidiary Janssen, and Tesaro (NASDAQ: TSRO), which is being acquired by GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK). TNB383B will be developed by TeneoOne, a business affiliated with Teneobio. Under the deal with AbbVie, the upfront payment goes to TeneoOne, and the North Chicago, IL, pharmaceutical company has the exclusive right to acquire that business, an arrangement that leaves Teneobio and its other partnerships intact.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are found in bone marrow. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 32,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year; nearly 13,000 cases will lead to death. Standard of care for the disease includes chemotherapies and drugs that regulate aspects of the immune system.

With the Teneobio deal, AbbVie joins a number of companies aiming to treat multiple myeloma by going after cancer cells that produce a protein called B-cell mutation antigen, which is found at higher levels in multiple myeloma cells. Bluebird Bio (NASDAQ: BLUE) is working on multiple BCMA-targeting programs in partnership with Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG); Johnson & Johnson joined the chase with a deal for rights to a compound originally developed by China-based Nanjing Legend. Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) is in early-stage studies with a multiple myeloma drug that targets BCMA as well as another cancer protein, CD33.

Teneobio’s drug takes a similar approach to Amgen’s. The company says TNB383B was developed to bind to BCMA as well as another protein, CD3. The Bay Area biotech says this duel mechanism is designed to direct the body’s immune system to target and kill the cells that express BCMA. Clinical trial paperwork for the drug was filed with the FDA last month. The company expects to begin a Phase 1 study testing the drug in the first half of this year.

Image by Wikimedia Commons user KGH under a Creative Commons license