When ImmunoGen (NASDAQ: IMGN) said yesterday that it had started human trials of a new drug to treat ovarian cancer and other solid tumors, the announcement marked a coming out of sorts for the Waltham, MA-based company. That’s because for most of the past decade or so, ImmunoGen has been inextricably linked with biotech giant Genentech, which has been using ImmunoGen’s technology to develop a breast cancer drug called emtansine (T-DM1). The drug has proven so promising in late-stage trials that hopes for an approval have pushed shares of ImmunoGen—which will collect single-digit royalties on the product should the FDA green-light it—up 30 percent in the last three months to $17.27. ImmunoGen also announced a secondary stock offering yesterday, though it did not say how much it hopes to raise.
ImmunoGen’s ovarian cancer drug, called IMGN853, is wholly owned by ImmunoGen, so if it opts to take it through the whole process and the product is approved, the company won’t have to share the proceeds with anyone. Furthermore, IMGN853 is the second such proprietary ImmunoGen drug to hit clinical trials this year. In April, ImmnoGen announced that its drug to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, IMGN529, was also starting human trials. Both drugs still have several years of development ahead of them, but that didn’t lessen CEO Daniel Junius’s optimism when he spoke to Xconomy in May. “It’s quite exciting,” Junius said. (The company was in a quiet period following the announcement of the secondary offering and declined to comment for this story.)
ImmunoGen’s base technology platform is used to make antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), which are antibodies that are linked to toxins designed to boost their potency. T-DM1 is an ADC that connects Genentech’s hit breast cancer drug, trastuzumab (Herceptin), to a toxin—creating a sort of smart bomb that can burrow into cancer cells and kill them.
Junius said that ImmunoGen’s ovarian cancer ADC employs a special linker technology—one of four in the company’s arsenal—which imbues it with the ability to … Next Page »