Boosting pipeline, AbbVie inks two deals for preclinical cancer drugs
- AbbVie on Thursday signed two separate oncology collaboration deals with the Dutch company Argenx and California-based CytomX, continuing to build out its cancer pipeline following last year's deal for Pharmacyclics.
- Under the deal with ArgenX, Abbvie will collaborate on developing a immuno-oncology antibody called ARGX-115, and will pay $40 million for the exclusive option to license the drug. ArgenX also stands to receive up to $625 million if further milestones are hit.
- Several hours after announcing the first deal, AbbVie said it had also agreed to co-develop CytomX's experimental cancer drug, which targets a receptor highly expressed on solid and hematological cancers. The potentially $500 million deal also gives AbbVie rights to two other drugs against undisclosed targets.
AbbVie has been focused on shoring up its oncology presence, buying Pharmacyclics for $21 billion last year to gain access to the blood cancer drug, Imbruvica (ibrutinib). Both deals announced yesterday are still in pre-clinical work, but give AbbVie a broader foothold in immuno-oncology.
ArgenX's drug, ARGX-115, is an antibody that targets the GARP protein, which is thought to be linked with the immunosuppressive effect of T-cells. If ArgenX develops the drug through to an investigational new drug application, AbbVie can exercise an exclusive option to license the program.
AbbVie will also fund GARP-related research for two years and will have the right to license any programs emerging from this work.
CytomX, on the other hand, is working on a selective approach to targeting tumors which it calls "Probody" therapeutics. These drugs are designed to remain inactive unless they recognize a specific marker unique to tumors. This could avoid the sometimes toxic effect cancer treatments can have when they bind to healthy cells. CytomX's main pre-clinical candidate is aimed at a marker known as CD71.
These efforts to add to its oncology pipeline underscore the threat AbbVie faces from generic competition to its blockbuster treatment Humira (adalimumab). Humira generated more than 60% of the company's revenue last year. Although some of the drug's patent protection is slated to expire this year, AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez thinks it can keep biosimilars off the market until 2022, according to EP Vantage.
Yet Amgen has already filed with the FDA for approval of ABP501, a biosimilar version of Humira, and the regulator could take action later this year.
Earlier this month, AbbVie did notch a major win the approval of Venclexta, a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and the company hopes to further expand the drug's indication to other hematological cancers.