- Amgen on Thursday picked up global rights to an immuno-oncology drug in early clinical trials for multiple myeloma, acquiring BI 836909 from German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim. Financial details were not disclosed.
- The drug was originally developed by Micromet and subsequently licensed to Boehringer Ingelheim before Amgen acquired Micromet back in 2012.
- Like many other drugmakers, Amgen has looked to oncology for new growth to replace waning revenues for blockbuster biologic drugs. The California biotech already markets one multiple myeloma treatment, called Kyprolis.
While multiple myeloma is a relatively rare cancer, over 30,000 new cases are expected in the U.S. this year, according to statistics from SEER. As the majority of cases are seen in people over 65, an aging population should see rising prevalence of the cancer.
Now part of Amgen’s cancer portfolio as AMG 420, BI 836909 is an antibody construct based on Micromet’s bispecific T cell engager (BiTE) technology. Bispecific antibodies are designed to help the immune system find and target cancer by simultaneously binding to malignant cells and cancer-killing T cells. More specifically, BI 836909 targets a B-cell maturation antigen, which is expressed on multiple myeloma cells.
Amgen is also using BiTE technology to development of several other cancer drugs, including AMG 211, AMG 330 and Blincyto (blinatumomab). Blincyto has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for a specific type of precursor ALL.
Analysts don’t seem to agree on the value of the multiple myeloma market. GlobalData predicts a healthy compounded annual growth rate of 11.2%, leading to a market worth $22.4 billion by 2023. GBI Research, on the other hand, forecasts a more modest CAGR of 4.6%, with a market value of $8.9 billion by 2021 (albeit working from a different baseline figure).
The growth rate forecast by both reflects a growing range of new therapeutic options, including Amgen's Kyprolis, Takeda's Ninlaro and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Empliciti. But multiple myeloma drugmakers could feel a pricing pinch due to greater public focus of the high cost of cancer drugs.
Earlier in 2016, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) raised concerns multiple myeloma drugs are priced too high relative to their ability to prolong life and recommended discounts. Both Bristol-Myers and Amgen have angrily fired back, calling into question ICER's methodology and motives.