Seattle Genetics Nabs $60M Upfront From Millennium For “Empowered Antibody”

Xconomy Seattle — 

Seattle Genetics lost one marquee partner last week, and a few days later, it gained another. The Bothell, WA-based biotech company said today that it has clinched a partnership with Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company to co-develop and market an “empowered antibody” for Hodgkin’s disease and related lymphomas.

Millennium, a Cambridge, MA-based operation that handles all cancer research for Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals, has agreed to pay $60 million upfront, and make milestone payments worth $230 million over time. In return, Millennium: Takeda will get exclusive commercial rights to brentuximab vedotin in all countries other than the U.S. and Canada, where Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) will retain full commercial rights. The companies will evenly split development costs, except in Japan, where Millennium: Takeda will pay all the expenses.

The deal is well-timed for Seattle Genetics, which was dealt a setback last week when Roche ended a nearly three-year-long collaboration, potentially worth more than $800 million, to develop an antibody treatment for lymphoma. But it was really only a minor blip, because the company generated much more interest in the past year for its technology that engineers conventional antibodies that seek out tumor cells, and combines them with a potent tumor-killing toxin to create “empowered” antibodies.

Seattle Genetics has been developing this technology for more than a decade, but it made a major splash in June 2008 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, when the company released preliminary results showing its experimental treatment was able to completely wipe out or partially shrink tumors for 12 of 38 patients, with mild to moderate fatigue, cough, and nausea as side effects. As patients were followed up over time, the data started looking even better for this empowered antibody.

Buzz among oncologists was so strong that patients poured into Seattle Genetics’ pivotal study fast enough that the company completed enrollment of the pivotal study in August, six months ahead of schedule. Seattle Genetics raised over $200 million from Wall Street this year largely on the drug’s prospects. The company now expects pivotal data from the drug in the second half of 2010, and to seek regulatory approval in the U.S. and Europe in 2011.

“Takeda is an ideal collaborator given its global presence, demonstrated commitment to oncology, and experience in the sales and marketing of first-in-class, targeted therapies for unmet medical needs,” said Clay Siegall, Seattle Genetics CEO, in a statement.

Millennium: Takeda has been familiar with the antibody-drug linking technology from Seattle Genetics for a while, and it bought a license to the technology for a separate antibody program in April. Deborah Dunsire, the CEO of Millennium: Takeda, noted that acquiring rights to a cancer drug in the final stage of development fits into the company’s portfolio of cancer medicines at various stages.

“This collaboration closely aligns with our growth strategy, which includes both internal and external opportunities. We are very excited to bring forward a novel medicine which will help us increase our reach in oncology throughout Europe and the rest of the world,” Dunsire said in a statement.

The companies have scheduled a conference call to discuss more details of the partnership at 8:30 am Eastern/5:30 am Pacific time.