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AZ adds to pipeline again with Amplimmune buy

Pharma company pays $500m via its MedImmune subsidiary for the small US biotech

MedImmuneAstraZeneca (AZ) has snapped up another small biotech as it replenishes its product pipeline, buying cancer specialist Amplimmune in a deal valued at up to $500m.

AZ is buying Maryland-based Amplimmune via its Medimmune subsidiary with $225m in upfront fees and $275m tied to development milestones in its development pipeline, which focuses on immune-mediated treatments for cancer.

The deal brings AZ a series of early-stage cancer projects, currently headed by AMP-514, an anti-programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) monoclonal antibody that is in late-stage preclinical testing and due to start clinical trials around the end of 2013.

AMP-514 will sit alongside Medimmune's own anti-PD-1 candidate MEDI4736 which is in phase I testing for various solid tumours including kidney cancer and multiple myeloma, while Amplimmune will also contribute a series of preclinical molecule targeting PD-1 related pathways, particularly those involving the B7 family of ligands.

PD-1 is something of a hot target at the moment, with candidates such as Merck & Co's lambrolizumab and Bristol-Myers Squibb's nivolumab attracting a lot of attention thanks to encouraging results in late-stage trials involving patients with malignant melanoma.

Amplimmune also has a partnership in place with Daiichi Sankyo for autoimmune disease treatment AMP-110 and it previously partnered with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on another PD-1 -modulating candidate, called AMP-224, which reached the phase Ib testing stage.

"MedImmune's focus on harnessing the power of the patient's own immune system to fight cancer will be complemented by Amplimmune's innovative work in this area," said Bahija Jallal, MedImmune's executive vice president for R&D. 

"It will allow us to strengthen our arsenal of potential cancer therapies," he added. Along with MEDI4736 Medimmmune has two other candidates in clinical trials, namely anti-CLA-4 antibody tremelimumab and an anti-OX40 mAb, which are in trials to treat solid tumours.

Meanwhile, AZ has been busy acquiring business in recent months to shore up its flagging pipeline, as part of an overhaul of the company's R&D operations under recently-appointed chief executive Pascal Soriot.

A few weeks ago it paid $350m upfront for rights to a drug developed by FibroGen for anaemia associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD), having already snapped up respiratory specialist Pearl Therapeutics in a $1.15bn deal along with US biotechs AlphaCore Pharma and Omthera Pharmaceuticals earlier this year.

Added to that haul have been collaborations with Moderna Therapeutics, the Karolinska Institutet and Oxford Cancer Biomarkers, as well as a $200m licence agreement with Bind Therapeutics for its cancer therapeutic BIND-014.

27th August 2013

From: Research

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