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Amgen pledges $1.5bn for CytomX preclinical cancer drugs

Stellar valuations for immuno-oncology candidates continue

Amgen

The stellar valuations for immuno-oncology candidates shows no sign of coming back to earth, with Amgen offering $1.5bn for a T-cell-engaging antibody programme still in early-stage development at CytomX Therapeutics.

The deal includes upfront cash of $40m, with Amgen also paying $20m for a stake in the biotech and pledging another $455m in milestones for a license to a double-headed (bispecific) antibody targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and CD3 receptor that has come out of CytomX’s Probody platform.

Amgen is also interested in three more undisclosed targets, which could generate another $950m in upfront and milestone payments, according to the terms of the deal.

In an unusual development, CytomX also gets a stake in an unnamed T-cell engaging bispecific developed at Amgen.

CytomX will handle the early stages of clinical development of the EGFR/CD3 Probody, with Amgen getting involved later in the process. The arrangement also gives the firm a chance to take a greater role in the development process and potentially split profits with Amgen, CEO Sean McCarthy said on a conference call today.

Amgen is already a player in the bispecific antigen space, winning approval for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia therapy Blincyto (blinatumomab) in the US in 2014, and is an ideal partner for these programmes, McCarthy said.

Amgen is not the first big biopharma company to be impressed by CytomX’s Probody therapeutics, which are designed to direct immune T cells to cancer cells, while incorporating a masking peptide to reduce binding to healthy tissues and prevent side effects. That means it can target tumour-associated antigens that have been excluded from current therapeutic approaches because they are present on healthy cells.

Last year, AbbVie agreed a $500m deal for CD71-targeted drugs and two undisclosed targets, while earlier this year Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) expanded a 2014 alliance with a $200m upfront payment for eight additional targets. Two lead candidates from the AbbVie and BMS programmes are due to start trials next year. Meanwhile, Pfizer also signed a $635m deal with the biotech in 2013.

Shares in US clinical stage biopharmaceutical company CytomX leaped more than a third on the latest deal.

Article by
Phil Taylor

4th October 2017

From: Research

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