Johnson & Johnson pays $300 million upfront under deal to develop argenx's cancer drug cusatuzumab

Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceutical unit entered an agreement potentially worth up to $1.6 billion to develop and market argenx's cusatuzumab in a number of cancers, including haematological malignancies, the companies announced Monday. Under the deal, Janssen will make an upfront payment of $300 million, with argenx eligible to receive milestones of up to $1.3 billion, as well as tiered, double-digit royalties.

Cusatuzumab, also known as ARGX-110, is an experimental antibody that targets CD70 and is currently in Phase I/II trials in patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Updated results from a study investigating cusatuzumab in combination with Celgene's Vidaza (azacytidine) in newly diagnosed patients with AML unfit for intensive chemotherapy are being presented alongside the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting.

"We believe CD70 is an important target in the biology of select cancers, and we are eager to accelerate the development of this innovative antibody together with argenx," remarked Yuri Elsayed. As part of the transaction, Johnson & Johnson will also make a $200-million equity investment in argenx.

Under the terms of the agreement, Janssen will jointly develop and commercialise cusatuzumab in AML, MDS, and potential future indications, as well as next-generation CD70 antibodies. Argenx has an option to participate in marketing efforts in the US, while outside the country, Janssen will pay double-digit sales royalties. The companies noted that Janssen will record global sales of any approved products, while in the US, the drugmakers have agreed to share the economics 50/50.

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