AbbVie Inks Two CAR-T Deals Worth Up to $1.4B with Umoja, Targets Multiple Cancers

AbbVie_iStock, Michael Vi

Pictured: AbbVie's headquarters in California/iStock, Michael Vi

AbbVie on Thursday announced it entered into two exclusive option and license agreements with Seattle-based Umoja Biopharma to develop multiple in-situ CAR-T therapies targeting various cancers.

The companies did not provide a specific breakdown of the financial terms of each deal. However, they said that the combined agreements could yield Umoja up to $1.44 billion in option exercise fees and developmental and regulatory milestones, on top of upfront payments and equity investments from AbbVie. Umoja will also be eligible for sales-based milestones and tiered royalties on net worldwide sales.

“We believe that in-situ CAR-T cell therapy represents a paradigm shift utilizing genetic medicine concepts,” Jonathon Sedgwick, vice president and global head of discovery research at AbbVie, said in a statement, adding that the Umoja partnership will allow the pharma to strengthen its oncology portfolio with next-generation CAR-T therapies and target new patient populations.

Thursday’s deals will leverage Umoja’s VivoVec gene delivery platform, which combines a proprietary third-generation lentiviral vector delivery system with a T-cell targeting and activation surface complex. According to the biotech’s website, VivoVec allows a patient’s cells to produce their own CAR-T cells.

This approach potentially sidesteps several challenges associated with other CAR-T therapies including the need for lymphodepletion, the reliance on harvested autologous or donor cells and the “time lag” due to the ex vivo modification of cells, AbbVie said in its announcement.

The first agreement will allow AbbVie to exclusively license Umoja’s CD19-targeting in-situ CAR-T candidates including its lead program UB-VV111, which is being assessed for hematological malignancies and is currently being prepared for an Investigational New Drug application.

The second deal will allow AbbVie to use VivoVec to generate up to four new in-situ CAR-T therapy candidates for yet-undisclosed discovery targets.

Thursday’s dual agreements with Umoja continues AbbVie’s dealmaking spree in late 2023, which saw the pharma ink two multibillion-dollar agreements. The first was with ImmunoGen and its deep portfolio of antibody-drug conjugates (ADC), which AbbVie bought for $10.1 billion.

The ImmunoGen deal gives AbbVie ownership of Elahere (mirvetuximab soravtansine-gynx), which won the FDA’s accelerated approval in November 2022 for platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. In May 2023, Elahere cleared its Phase III confirmatory trial MIRASOL, positioning the ADC for full approval.

A week after the Immunogen buy, AbbVie dropped $8.7 billion to acquire Cerevel and its portfolio of potentially best-in-class molecules for psychiatric and neurological diseases.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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