Amgen’s R&D Chief, Roger Perlmutter, on Why BioVex’s Cancer-Fighting Virus Is Worth $1B

1/26/11Follow @xconomy

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to other parts of the body also shrank, even when they weren’t directly injected.

“You can’t make those tumor masses go away by chance. Something happened here. That tells you that there’s an immune response having an effect,” Perlmutter says. “The question is how many responses we’ll see, which patients it happens for, how durable the responses are, and how meaningful that is for a new therapy for cancer.”

Amgen has been busy lately with its own internally developed antibody for cancer patients, denosumab (Xgeva), which was recently approved for treating bone-related tumors. It has quite a few other biotech drug approaches moving ahead in its pipeline. But it didn’t have a program like BioVex’s, and BioVex, naturally, doesn’t have anywhere near the horsepower of Amgen (which had a jaw-dropping $17.4 billion in cash on its books heading into 2011).

Having that much cash, and an armada of people whose job is to run Phase III clinical trials that will satisfy the FDA, means this little BioVex drug will get a lot more oomph behind it than ever before.

After looking over the BioVex results, Perlmutter says he talked to Coffin and others at BioVex about working together. Resources, which are always hard to come by for venture-backed biotech companies, was the big card he had to play. “We can bring to this company the kind of resources it would really need to do effective large-scale clinical trials,” Perlmutter says. “Not to discredit what they have already achieved, which is considerable. But we have a bit more muscle.”

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  • Saumitra

    Thank you Luke, It would be interesting to see if Amgen would stick with Melanoma or Head and Neck Cancer for it’s first approval.

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