AbbVie and Harpoon Expand Partnership with $510 Million Licensing Deal

The new deal builds on a discovery agreement signed in October 2017.

AbbVie and Harpoon Therapeutics expanded a research-and-development pact with an exclusive worldwide option and license deal. The new deal builds on a discovery agreement signed in October 2017.

Under the terms of this new deal, AbbVie picks up an option to license worldwide exclusive rights to HPN217, Harpoon’s B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA)-targeting Tri-specific T-cell Activating Construct (TriTAC). AbbVie also picks up worldwide rights to develop and commercialize two new TriTAC molecules designed for two selected targets and has the option to pick up to four more targets, for a total of six new targets.

AbbVie paid $50 million upfront for HPN217 and up to $50 million more in a contingent milestone payment for the first patient treated with it in a clinical trial. For each target under the new agreement, Harpoon is eligible for up to $310 million in upfront and various milestones, as well as royalties on global commercial sales. The total potential value of the deal is $510 million with royalties on top of that.

“Harpoon has built a unique and proprietary biologics platform that utilizes the cancer patient’s own immune system to attack cancer,” said Gerald McMahon, president and chief executive officer of Harpoon. “HPN217, targeting BCMA, is poised to advance to clinical development for the treatment of multiple myeloma. We believe AbbVie is the ideal partner for Harpoon to support the advancement of our BCMA program given the commercial focus of AbbVie in the treatment of this cancer. In addition, we look forward to expanding our discovery collaboration to include up to six additional molecular targets.”

Harpoon will handle development of HPN217 through Phase I/II clinical trials. Once AbbVie exercises its option, it will run all future clinical development, manufacturing and commercialization activities. It can choose to option HPN217 after the completion of the Phase I/II trial.

AbbVie is showing a strong interest in multiple myeloma with several recent deals. AbbVie’s Venclexta/Venclyxto (venetoclax) is under development for multiple myeloma, but has not been approved after safety issues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted a partial hold on the Phase III CANOVA trial in June 2019 based on revisions to the trial’s protocol. The FDA essentially required the company to conduct a t(11;14) biomarker test to identify patients more likely to respond better to the treatment. The test looks for a translocation of genetic material between chromosomes 11 and 14.

In February, AbbVie inked a deal with Teneobio and its affiliate TeneoOne to develop and commercialize TNB-383B. This asset is a BCMA-targeting immunotherapy for multiple myeloma. AbbVie paid $90 million upfront.

Of today’s announcement, Natalie Sacks, Harpoon’s chief medical officer, said, “As our pipeline of initial TriTAC clinical candidates advance in prostate and ovarian cancers, we are thrilled to partner with AbbVie in pursuit of therapies geared towards hematologic cancers. With our efforts and expertise combined, we look forward to the initiation of our planned Phase I/II clinical trial with HPN217 in patients with multiple myeloma.”

Harpoon’s lead product, HPN424 targets PSMA and is currently in a Phase I trial for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Its second product, HPN536, targets mesothelin and is presently in a Phase I/IIa trial for cancers that express mesothelin, with an initial focus on ovarian and pancreatic cancers.