Argenx Regains Rights to Blood Cancer Drug Following Dropped $1.6 Billion Deal

Janssen_Editorial_Michael Vi

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In 2018, Argenx and Johnson & Johnson forged a $1.6 billion partnership to develop cusatuzumab to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

Now, a few years down the road, J&J has decided to terminate the agreement. As a result of the termination, argenx will regain worldwide rights to cusatuzumab, its anti-CD70 antibody, from Cilag FmbH International, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

In its announcement, Cilag stated that "the decision is based upon Janssen's review of all available cusatuzumab data and in consideration of the evolving standard of care for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML)."

Before termination of the agreement, argenx had received an upfront payment of $300 million, approximately $200 million in an equity investment from Johnson and Johnson Innovation and $25 million in milestone payments.

“We have valued the productive collaboration with Janssen that has advanced our understanding of cusatuzumab and its role in AML biology. Together we have generated clinical and translational data that have optimized the dose of cusatuzumab and further characterized its effect on cells in the bone marrow,” said Tim Van Hauwermeiren, Chief Executive Officer of argenx.

Argenx plans to continue moving forward with cusatuzumab as it regains worldwide rights to the drug.

Cusatuzumab is currently being evaluated in combination with venetoclax and azacitidine in newly-diagnosed, elderly patients in the Phase Ib ELEVATE trial, and the Phase II CULMINATE trial evaluating cusatuzumab and azacitidine's impact on monocytic-like blasts and leukemic stem cells in AML patients.

Argenx has been fairly quiet so far in 2021. However, the company did score a deal with Zai Lab at the beginning of the year. In January, the two companies announced an exclusive license agreement for the development and commercialization of efgartigimod in Greater China, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

“Through this collaboration with Zai Lab, we are expanding our global footprint in one of the world’s fastest growing markets and reaching more people living with severe autoimmune diseases,” said Tim Van Hauwermeiren, Chief Executive Officer of argenx, at the time of the announcement. “By leveraging Zai Lab’s strong local expertise within Greater China and proven development capabilities, we aim to provide broad access to efgartigimod in these important markets as well as accelerate the number of autoimmune indications in clinical development.”

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