Amunix Inks $1.5 Billion+ Licensing Deal with Roche

Pharma Deal

Amunix Pharmaceuticals, based in Mountain View, California, entered a licensing deal with Roche. Amunix has had previous licensing deals with Johnson & Johnson, Genentech, Merck and Biogen. Its technology has previously focused on extending the half-life of drugs.

Under the terms of the deal, Roche will pay Amunix $40 million upfront. Amunix will be eligible for up to $1.5 billion in various milestone payments, plus royalties on sales of any products that hit the market.

Roche will utilize Amunix’s technology platform, XTEN, to identify and develop non-cancer therapies against specific undisclosed targets. XTEN is made up of unstructured polypeptides that can extend the half-life of drugs with low associated immunogenicity. Amunix is focusing now on Pro-XTEN, a next-generation protease activated pro-drug platform that allows selective activation of cancer therapies in the microenvironment.

“We are pleased to license our technology to Roche to support the discovery and development of novel therapeutics to address high unmet needs across various diseases,” said Angie You, chief executive officer of Amunix. “This agreement further validates our foundational XTEN technology and its continued potential for biopharmaceutical partners seeking to develop drugs with augmented half-life and low associated immunogenicity.”

The licensing deal apparently covers a portion of the older technology, which You indicates Roche has been investigating for a while before committing to the agreement. Roche isn’t disclosing what drugs it will use the XTEN platform for, although You indicates it will be for a very specific indication and target that isn’t oncology.

You indicates Amunix will leverage the money into its nascent immuno-oncology focus. Shortly after You took over about a year ago, the company licensed the technology to Merck. That was to develop drugs against an undisclosed target leveraging Amunix’s protease-triggered immune activator (ProTIA) technology platform.

“Amunix’s ProTIA technology offers the potential to create novel tumor-targeted molecules for evaluation in our immuno-oncology clinical development programs,” said Rob Kastelein, associate vice president, Immune-Oncology Discovery, Merck Research Laboratories, at the time. “We look forward to working with the Amunix team.”

Financial details of that agreement were not disclosed.

Amunix’s new focus is on engineering T-cells to attack solid tumors without the toxic T-cell reactions other research has observed. Basically, it takes the polypeptide chains it uses to extend half-lives and merges them with proteases to camouflage the drugs until they make their way to the tumor.

You said, “As we continue to pivot from purely a technology licensing company to a cancer drug discovery and development organization, we look forward to Roche and other external collaborators continuing to utilize our XTEN technology for a spectrum of indications while we focus our internal efforts on repurposing this technology to build a pro-drug platform and advance an oncology pipeline.”

You took over the reins of the company on January 3, the same time Rich Heyman came on as chairman of the board of directors. Over much of the rest of the year, the company replaced most of its C-suit, appointing Mike Derynck as chief medical officer, Darcy Mootz as chief business officer and Yvonne Li as senior vice president of Finance in May, Bryan Irving as chief scientific officer in June, and Maninder Hora as chief technical operations officer in August.

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