AbbVie to pay $750 million upfront under oncology deal with Genmab

AbbVie agreed to make an upfront payment of $750 million to Genmab as part of a collaboration to jointly develop and commercialise three of the latter's next-generation bispecific antibody products, the companies announced Wednesday. The agreement includes Genmab's epcoritamab, which AbbVie vice chairman Michael Severino said "is a strong fit for our robust haematological oncology franchise."

Epcoritamab, also known as DuoBody-CD3xCD20, is currently in clinical trials for B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Findings presented last month at the virtual scientific programme of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting showed that in a Phase I/II study, 50% of 14 patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma who received epcoritamab at a dose of at least 12 mg responded to treatment, including three subjects who had failed prior CAR-T therapy. Specifically, three patients achieved complete responses and four had partial responses. Meanwhile, results showed that cytokine release syndrome occurred in 56.9% of all 58 patients in the trial, although there were no cases of grade 3 or above.

Along with epcoritamab, the deal also includes Genmab's DuoHexaBody-CD37 and DuoBody-CD3x5T4. In addition, the companies plan to combine antibodies from both parties with Genmab's DuoBody technology and AbbVie's payload and antibody-drug conjugate technology to select and develop up to four more differentiated next-generation product candidates, potentially across both solid tumours and haematological malignancies. Genmab will conduct Phase I studies for these four programmes, with AbbVie retaining opt-in rights.

Milestones could top $3 billion

Aside from the upfront payment, Genmab is eligible to receive up to $3.15 billion in further development, regulatory and sales milestones for all programmes, as well as tiered royalties between 22% and 26% on net sales for epcoritamab outside the US and Japan. The drugmakers noted that they will share commercial responsibilities for epcoritamab in the US and Japan, with AbbVie responsible for further global commercialisation. Genmab will book net sales in the US and Japan and receive tiered royalties on remaining global sales.

The companies indicated that the potential milestones include up to $1.15 billion in payments related to the three existing bispecific antibody programmes, while if all four next-generation antibody product candidates are successfully developed, Genmab is eligible to receive up to $2 billion in option exercise and success-based milestone payments. For DuoHexaBody-CD37, DuoBody-CD3x5T4 and any further product candidates, the drugmakers will share responsibilities for global development and commercialisation in the US and Japan. Meanwhile, Genmab retains the right to co-commercialise these products outside of these markets.

Commenting on the deal, Genmab CEO Jan van de Winkel said "this transformative collaboration will allow us to accelerate, broaden and maximise the development of some of our promising early-stage bispecific antibodies, including epcoritamab."

AbbVie looks to move past failures

The collaboration with Genmab comes as AbbVie looks to build its presence in oncology and move on from the recent failures of rovalpituzumab tesirine (Rova-T) in advanced small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and depatuxizumab mafodotin (Depatux-M) in newly diagnosed glioblastoma. Recent additions to the company's pipeline include deals with Teneobio and Harpoon Therapeutics for BCMA-targeting drugs, as well as an agreement with Jacobio Pharmaceuticals to develop SHP2 inhibitors.

For related analysis, see ViewPoints: AbbVie gets into SHP2 shape.

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