Johnson & Johnson pays US $ 125 million to acquire the rights to a Xencor bispecific antibody in B-cell cancer development benefit.
Bispecific antibodies are drugs designed to hit two targets at the same time. The Xencor drug plamotamab targets CD20, an antigen on B-cell tumors, and CD3, a receptor on T-cells that plays a role in their activation. Competition in this area is intensifying as both Roche and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have early-stage bispecific antibodies that target the same goals. But the drugs from these companies are intravenous fluids. Xencor is preparing to test a version of its drug that will be given by subcutaneous injection, a form of administration that is easier for both patients and doctors. This formulation could set plamotamab apart from competitors.
According to terms and conditions announced on Monday, J&J subsidiary Janssen Biotech will pay US $ 100 million upfront for the worldwide rights to plamotamab. In addition, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, will acquire Xencor shares valued at $ 25 million. The partners share in the cost of developing plamotamab; 80% from Janssen and the remaining 20% from Xencor. These costs include the expected start of a clinical trial in 2022 to evaluate the subcutaneous formulation of plamotamab. A phase 1 dose escalation is already underway to test the IV version of the drug in patients with CD20-expressing blood cancer.
The agreement also includes a two-year collaboration in which Xencor, headquartered in Monrovia, Calif., Will use its technology to develop additional bispecific antibodies that target a different antigen target on B-cell tumors, CD28. Janssen will have exclusive worldwide rights to develop selected molecules in combination with plamotamab and other drugs. Depending on research progress, Xencor could earn milestone payments of approximately $ 1.18 billion as well as royalties on sales when the drugs from the collaboration hit market. For antibodies marketed outside of combination with plamotamab, Xencor retains the option to co-finance development costs in exchange for higher license fees and the right to participate in product marketing in the United States
“The treatment landscape for B-cell lymphoma may be redefined by bispecific CD20 x CD3 antibodies such as plamotamab, and the best patient outcomes require creative combination approaches with complementary mechanisms of action,” said Bassil Dahiyat, President and CEO of Xencor in a prepared Explanation.
Janssen is already familiar with Xencor’s antibody technology. Last year, the J&J subsidiary reached an agreement to develop bispecific antibodies against CD28 and an unknown prostate tumor target as a treatment for prostate cancer. Janssen paid $ 50 million upfront; Xencor could receive milestone payments of up to $ 662.5 million.
Had it turned out differently, plamotamab might have continued its development under Novartis. This bispecific antibody and another were part of a collaboration with the Swiss pharmaceutical giant in 2016. Three years later, the drug failed a strategic review of the pipeline candidates, and Novartis returned the rights to the drug to Xencor. The other drug from the 2016 pact targets CD123 and CD3. This bispecific antibody, now called vibecotamab, is under development as part of the Novartis partnership.
Plamotamab is already part of another collaboration. Last year, Xencor entered into an alliance with MorphoSys to test the bispecific antibody and MorphoSys drug Monjuvi in combination with another drug, lenalidomide, in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and follicular lymphoma. This collaboration will continue, with Xencor funding this research at its own expense. A phase 2 study in relapsed or refractory DLBCL is expected to begin late this year or early next year.
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