- Antibody developer Xencor will receive $120 million upfront from a research and licensing deal with Roche's Genentech that centers on a preclinical bispecific molecule, the companies announced Wednesday.
- Genentech could wind up paying an additional $160 million in milestone payments depending on how clinical development goes for XmAb24306, the molecule at the center of the deal. Xencor could also see 45% of any revenues generated, and holds an option to co-promote in the U.S. through the deal.
- Xencor has a pipeline of bispecific therapies and immune inhibitors, including several partnered candidates. XmAb24306 is Xencor's most advanced preclinical cytokine program, and is described as an IL-15/IL-15Rα cytokine complex.
Bispecific antibodies are double-barreled approaches that are now making a mark in cancer therapy and immuno-oncology. Unlike traditional monoclonal antibodies, which bind to a single target, bispecifics seek out two targets and are seen to have potential in several therapeutic areas.
Roche's Genentech has an approved bispecific antibody already under its belt with the hemophilia A treatment Hemlibra (emicizumab), for example, and is developing a set of anti-cancer bispecifics.
The finances of the Xencor deal show an unusually high valuation on a preclinical asset — reflective of Roche's apparent interest in expanding its bispecifics pipeline. Xencor plans to combine its IL-15 bispecific cytokines with a broad spectrum of leading commercial-stage and investigational cancer therapies.
The California-based biotech expects the partnership to push forward the development of XmAb24306, wrote Johnathan Chang, an analyst at SVB Leerink, with an Investigational New Drug Application slated for mid-2019.
Chang noted the potential for combinations with Genentech's oncology pipeline was important in Xencor's decision to ink the deal. Combination studies would follow Phase 1 monotherapy studies.
Interluekin 2, or IL-2, has been a target in cancer therapy for its ability to boost the immune response against cancer. Xencor's focus is on another interleukin, called IL-15, which it sees as an approach that can trigger the expansion and activation of natural killer cells and cytotoxic T cells but with reduced regulatory T cell activation compared with IL-2.