(Reuters) – Abbvie Inc <ABBV.N> said on Wednesday it is partnering with Danish biotech firm Genmab AS <GMAB.CO> to jointly develop and market cancer treatments, as it looks to expand its cancer franchise.
The U.S.-based pharma giant will pay Genmab $750 million up front to jointly develop and commercialize three of Genmab’s cancer-targeting antibody products, including its potential blood cancer treatment, epcoritamab, currently in a mid-stage study.
Genmab could receive up to $3.15 billion in additional development, regulatory and sales milestone payments.
The deal, which covers three of Genmab’s so-called bispecific antibodies, validates a new technology that uses complex therapeutic proteins that can latch onto the body’s immune cells and connect them with cancer cells.
Genmab’s rivals in the race to develop bispecific antibodies include Roche <ROG.S>, GlaxoSmithKline <GSK.L> and Bristol-Myers Squibb <BMY.N>.
The deal provides Genmab with cash to not only advance its clinical development candidates, but also to start building its commercial infrastructure, said RBC analyst Kennen MacKay
AbbVie, which makes blockbuster blood cancer drug Imbruvica, is testing treatments for more than 20 different types of cancer, and has faced some research setbacks recently.
In August, the company abandoned experimental treatment Rova-T after the drug flunked a lung cancer trial, writing off most of the $5.8 billion it paid the drug’s developer, Stemcentrx, in 2016.
The Genmab deal tops expectations and gives the Illinois-based drugmaker access to several experimental antibodies to strengthen its cancer portfolio, as well as allows Genmab to fend off fierce competition from Roche Holding AG <ROG.S> and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc <REGN.O> in Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said Citi analyst Peter Verdult.
Abbvie plans to combine antibodies being developed by both companies with its antibody drug conjugates, described by researchers as “guided missiles”.
“By combining the strengths of our two organizations, we can advance the treatment landscape for patients battling cancer,” Michael Severino, AbbVie’s vice chairman, said in a statement.
Genmab shares rose as much as 4.8% in Copenhagen trading after the announcement.
(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)