- AbbVie will pay Alpine Immune Sciences $60 million for an option to license a drug the Seattle biotech is developing for a number of autoimmune diseases.
- AbbVie can trigger the option after seeing how Alpine's drug, dubbed ALPN-101, performs in a Phase 2 study in patients with lupus. If AbbVie buys in and the drug progresses, Alpine could receive up to another $805 million in conditional payments.
- The deal marks the most lucrative potential partnership thus far for Alpine, a company headed by Mitch Gold, the former CEO of cancer immunotherapy pioneer Dendreon. Alpine has inked smaller pacts with two cancer cell therapy developers, but one of those — a deal with Gilead subsidiary Kite Pharma — fizzled last year.
Mitch Gold is a well-known figure in biotech for his stint at Dendreon. The firm produced a pioneering prostate cancer immunotherapy, Provenge, which the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2010, but struggled to sell it and wound up bankrupt as a result.
Both the company and the executive have gone on to second acts. Dendreon was sold twice — first, in a bankruptcy auction to Valeant Pharmaceuticals in 2015, and then, two years later, to Chinese conglomerate Sanpower Group. The company remains a standalone subsidiary of Sanpower, and continues to run new tests of Provenge, such as a Phase 3 study that began last year in early-stage prostate cancer.
Gold, meanwhile, enjoyed success in the biotech startup world. He formed Alpine Biosciences in 2012, and sold it to Oncothyreon two years later in a deal worth 10% of Oncothyreon, which was itself renamed Cascadian Therapeutics and sold for $614 million in 2018.
In 2013, Gold co-founded a venture firm, Alpine BioVentures, that joined with Frazier Healthcare in a 2017 Series A round for Mavupharma. AbbVie bought the startup last year.
Gold's other project has been Alpine Immune Sciences, which his venture firm backed with a $48 million round in 2016 and went public via a reverse merger the following year. Gold is the chairman and CEO of Alpine, which is developing immunotherapies for both autoimmune conditions and cancer based on a technology meant to dial up, or down, an immune response. Its drugs are meant to do so by binding to multiple targets at the same time. Lead drug ALPN-101, for instance, blocks ICOS and CD28, two targets implicated in inflammation.
The firm recently began a mid-stage test of ALPN-101 in graft-versus-host disease, though it also aims to develop the drug for other autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjogren's syndrome. On signing of the AbbVie deal, Alpine plans to run a Phase 2 trial in lupus, the results of which will determine whether the Illinois drugmaker fully buys in to the drug.
AbbVie views ALPN-101 as a potential "next-generation treatment" for lupus and other diseases, given the drug's mechanism, chief scientific officer Tom Hudson said in a statement.
Alpine has formed two partnerships before, in cancer. The first was signed with Kite Pharma in 2015, two years before the firm was acquired by Gilead. An SEC filing shows Gilead decided to end the deal in May 2019, the same month Alpine formed another pact with a cell therapy developer, Adaptimmune.
Alpine shares surged 120%, to $10.74 apiece, in mid-day trading Thursday.