Millennium, In a New Role, Flexes Global Muscle to Cut Deal With Seattle Genetics

1/26/10

Millennium is playing the role of global development and marketing partner to Seattle Genetics, something that would have been tricky for Cambridge, MA-based Millennium to nail before it became the cancer R&D arm of Japanese drug giant Takeda Pharmaceutical Company in May 2008.

Last month, Millennium closed a major collaboration deal with Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ:SGEN), buying exclusive rights to sell the Bothell, WA-based biotech firm’s experimental drug for Hodgkin’s and other lymphomas in all markets outside the U.S. and Canada. (Luke covered this deal in Seattle last month.) The deal shows how Millennium, with the financial backing and global reach of its parent Takeda, has risen in the ranks of potential collaborators in the biopharmaceutical game.

Takeda is looking to Millennium to lead the expansion of its oncology business, which already features Millennium’s big-selling multiple myeloma drug bortezomib (Velcade). In addition to the Seattle Genetics deal, Millennium executives played a key role last spring in doing due diligence for and negotiating Takeda’s buyout of Irvine, CA-based IDM Pharma, says Dan Curran, vice president of corporate development at Millennium. This week, Takeda is beginning European sales of mifamurtide (Mepact), a bone cancer therapy developed by IDM, he noted.

In Seattle Genetics, Millennium has found a partner with which it has a long history and deep understanding of its technology. Millennium initially began a research collaboration with the Washington biotech in 2003 to evaluate its “empowered” antibody drugs, according to Curran. That relationship was elevated last March, when Millennium paid Seattle Genetics $4 million up front to license the empowered antibody technology for cancer drug development. As the name suggests, the drugs are souped-up antibodies. The firm’s technology links antibodies, which are ideal for homing in on proteins on the surface of cancer cells, to toxins that are intended to destroy cancer cells.

Millennium knows what it is like to be in Seattle Genetics’s shoes, trying to bring its first drug to market and relying on a larger corporate partner in order to tap foreign markets. In fact, Millennium partnered with a unit of the healthcare products giant … Next Page »

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