Johnson & Johnson has licensed an antibody drug for multiple myeloma called daratumumab from Danish biotech Genmab in a deal that could be worth up to $1.1bn.
J&J's Janssen Biotech negotiated worldwide development and marketing rights to daratumumab - a human anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody that is currently in phase I/II studies in patients with relapsed, refractory multiple myeloma - as well as a follow-up antibody.
J&J has taken an almost 11 per cent equity stake in Genmab for around $80m and paid $55m upfront for the licence, with the balance of the deal coming from development, regulatory and commercial milestones.
Genmab will be responsible for completing two ongoing phase I/II studies - called GEN501 and GEN503 - while Janssen will be responsible for all other development, clinical and regulatory filing activities.
"Daratumumab is an exciting, innovative compound, and we are delighted to add it to our portfolio," commented William Hait, head of Janssen R&D.
The multiple myeloma market is currently dominated by three drugs, namely Celgene's Revlimid (lenalidomide) and Thalomid (thalidomide), with another thalidomide product sold by Fujimoto Seiyaku as Thaled in some markets, as well as J&J's own Velcade (bortezomib) which was developed with Takeda unit Millennium Pharmaceuticals.
Things are looking increasingly crowded, however, as there is a fairly fertile crop of drug candidates coming through development, most notably Onyx Pharmaceuticals and Ono Pharma's Kyprolis (carfilzomib) - which was approved in the US last month and has been tipped as a $1.5bn product at peak.
A little further down the line are Celgene's Revlimid follow-up pomalidomide, which was submitted for approval in the US in April, 2012, as well as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbott's elotuzumab, Aeterna/Keryx/Yakult Honsha's perifosine and Merck & Co's Zolinza (vorinostat), all of which are in phase III testing.
Despite the competition, the licensing news is a major boost for Genmab, which saw its shares rocket upwards on the announcement as investors welcomed the cash infusion into the 180-person strong biotech company.
The stock is now trading at around 80 Danish kroner, having dipped to around 25 kroner towards the end of last year when it was embroiled in a patent infringement lawsuit with Biogen Idec and Genentech over Arzerra (ofatumumab), its chronic lymphocytic leukaemia product that is partnered with GlaxoSmithKline and sold in the US and Europe.