- Delaware-based Incyte Corp. on Thursday inked an expansive collaboration deal with the Dutch company Merus N.V., paying $120 million upfront to gain rights to up to 11 bispecific antibody programs.
- Incyte will also buy 3.2 million shares of Merus stock for $80 million, bringing the total guaranteed cash for Merus up to $200 million.
- The collaboration gives Incyte access to Merus' bispecifics technology — dubbed "BicIonics" — including two immuno-oncology programs currently in preclinical discovery.
Incyte has slowly recovered from a major clinical setback at the beginning of the year.
In February, Incyte announced it would halt solid tumor trials of its best-selling bone disease drug Jakafi (ruxolitinib), following failures in two studies testing the JAK inhibitor against pancreatic and colorectal cancers. That decision, along with the disappointing results, triggered a stock slide that trimmed nearly 40% off Incyte's share price.
Since March, though, the stock has rallied and now trades close to the price seen before the trial failures. Continued commercial success of Jakafi in its approved indications led Incyte to raise its revenue guidance in August and November, while promising pipeline progress contributed to the recovery.
Now, Incyte is making a substantial investment to further broaden its pipeline in oncology, betting on Merus' bispecific antibodies.
Bispecifics, which can bind to two different antigens simultaneously, have attracted increased attention of late. Amgen, J&J, Novartis and Gilead have all made investments in the space, intrigued by bispecifics potential to connect tumor surface proteins with immune cells.
On one of the 11 programs under the deal with Merus, Incyte will develop and commercialize any products developed in markets outside the U.S. For products resulting from two other programs, Merus can opt to share development costs in exchange for a 50% share of U.S. profits plus tiered royalties on ex-U.S. sales.
Incyte has lined up milestones of up to $350 million each for the other eight programs, but will be solely responsible for development and commercialization costs.
Enthusiasm for the deal appeared muted among Incyte investors, however, with shares falling nearly 2% in value during Wednesday morning trading. Merus, on the other hand, rocketed up by nearly 50% on the Nasdaq stock exchange.