- Branching further into the hot therapeutic area of immuno-oncology, Amgen Inc. has entered into a deal with CytomX Therapeutics Inc. that will use the West Coast biotech's technology to craft treatments for multiple kinds of cancer.
- The collaboration orbits around CytomX's Probody platform, which aims to deliver toxic drugs specifically to tumors rather than healthy cells. The companies plan to use the platform to develop a T-cell engaging bispecific targeting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and CD3-receptors that play a role in tumor progression and immune response, respectively. Terms of the deal also give Amgen exclusive rights to as many as three additional targets.
- In exchange, CytomX receives $40 million upfront plus $455 million in potential milestone payments for the EGFR program. An additional $950 million in milestones for the three other programs is also up for grabs. What's more, Amgen has agreed buy $20 million worth of the biotech's common stock, which closed Tuesday at $19 per share.
While Amgen has lucrative treatments for the side effects of chemotherapy, such as its blockbuster drug Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) and its erythropoiesis-stimulating protein Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa), its portfolio doesn't really shine compared to heavy hitters in the space like Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Merck & Co.
Additionally, Neulasta sales were down about 5% over the first half of 2017 compared to the year prior due to a "decline in unit demand," according to Amgen's most recent 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Over all, the drug has accounted for a lower percentage of the big biotech's product sales in recent years.
Against that backdrop — and with cancer drug development reaching a fever pitch across the industry — Amgen has been working to quickly grow its oncology presence. The company recently received a thumbs up from regulators for its biosimilar to Roche AG's Avastin (bevacizumab). The Food and Drug Administration also green lit the supplemental Biologics License Application for the company's refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia drug Blincyto (blinatumomab), changing it from an accelerated approval to a full approval.
Now, the big biotech is diving deeper into immuno-oncology.
"Our collaboration with CytomX leverages Amgen's development leadership in bispecifics and expands our immuno-oncology capabilities with an additional and complementary bispecific technology," Sean Harper, Amgen's head of R&D, said in an Oct. 3 statement. "EGFR is a particularly compelling target on which to employ the CytomX Probody platform given its potential to localize activity within tumors while limiting potential toxicity."
Meanwhile, CytomX inks another deal with an established drugmaker. The company already has collaborations in place with AbbVie Inc., Bristol and ImmunoGen Inc., among others, and relies on those agreements to keep revenues flowing.
"Substantially all of our revenue to date has been derived from our existing collaboration agreements, and a significant portion of our future revenue and cash resources is expected to be derived from these agreements or other similar agreements we may enter into in the future," CytomX said in its most recent quarterly filing.
In its latest deal, the small drugmaker has agreed to lead early development while Amgen handles later-stage clinical research and commercialization.
CytomX may fetch high single-digit to mid-double digit royalties on product sales from any of the undisclosed targets provided they make it to market. The company also gains rights to an undisclosed preclinical T-cell engaging bispecific program — from which Amgen is eligible to receive milestones and royalty payments should the program be commercialized.
Though Amgen stock remained relatively unphased by the news, CytomX shares opened at $24.34 apiece on Wednesday, up 28% from the prior day's close.