Biotech Giant Amgen Bets $1.5 Billion on Bay Area CytomX's Cancer Drugs

Published: Oct 06, 2017

Biotech Giant Amgen Bets $1.5 Billion on Bay Area CytomX's Cancer Drugs October 4, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Shares of South San Francisco-based CytomX Therapeutics are up more than 34 percent in early market trading after the company forged a strategic collaboration in immuno-oncology worth up to $1.5 billion with pharma giant Amgen .

The two companies will work together to develop a CytomX Probody T-cell engaging bispecific against the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), a highly validated oncology target expressed on multiple human cancer types.

Sean Harper, Amgen’s head of research and development, touted the CytomX Probody platform and its potential to target EGFR. The CytomX platform has the potential to localize activity within tumors while limiting potential toxicity, Harper said.

Under terms of the deal, Amgen will make an upfront payment of $40 million and purchase $20 million of CytomX common stock. CytomX will be eligible to receive up to $455 million in development, regulatory and commercial milestones for the EGFR program. If Amgen opts to go after three additional undisclosed targets, CytomX could then earn an additional $950 million in upfront and milestone payments. In preclinical studies, CytomX's Probody versions of EGFRxCD3 bispecific therapeutics induced tumor regressions and increased the therapeutic window for this high potential cancer target, the company said in its announcement this morning.

But the deal is also has a reciprocal component. CytomX will receive the rights to an undisclosed preclinical T-cell engaging bispecific program from Amgen. Any products that result from this development will allow Amgen to receive milestone and royalty payments.

This marks the second major deal CytomX has struck with a giant pharmaceutical company this year. In March, CytomX expanded a 2014 collaboration agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb , putting a potential of $5 billion worth of new therapeutics on the table for the companies.

Last year, CytomX struck a deal worth up to $500 million with AbbVie to co-develop commercialize Probody Drug Conjugates against CD71, also known as transferrin receptor 1 (TfR1).

CytomX’s probody therapeutics are designed to take advantage of unique conditions in the tumor microenvironment to enhance the tumor-targeting features of an antibody and reduce drug activity in healthy tissues, according to company information. Once activated, the probody therapeutics bind selectively to cells within tumor tissue with reduced binding to healthy tissue, potentially improving or creating a therapeutic window, according to company data.

Sean McCarthy, president and chief executive officer of CytomX said probody-based T-cell engaging bispecific antibodies offer “significant potential in treating cancers by employing localized therapeutic activity within tumor tissue.” He added that the collaboration with Amgen, along with the work being done with BMS and AbbVie, validates the “broad applicability of the Probody platform in addressing unmet needs in oncology."

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