ImmunoGen Emerges from Genentech’s Shadow With Novel Cancer Drugs

7/12/12Follow @arleneweintraub

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counteract resistance that’s often seen in cancer treatments. The first trial will involve 64 patients with three different types of drug-resistant ovarian or lung tumors. He said in the previous interview that the company is pursuing a “pretty aggressive protocol” that should reveal insights about the drug’s effectiveness and side effects by mid-2013.

The lymphoma drug, IMGN529, addresses an emerging cancer target called CD37, which is a protein that’s prevalent in some forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The first trial will enroll 55 lymphoma patients.

Junius said that in animal models, IMGN529 appeared to be as effective as rituximab (Rituxan), Genentech’s blockbuster drug to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “We’re able to add the ADC dimension to it, while not losing the therapeutic benefit of the antibody,” he said. “We think that makes it quite interesting.”

ImmunoGen was founded in 1981 and has racked up an impressive list of Big Pharma partners. In addition to Genentech (a unit of Swiss drug giant Roche), the company has development deals with Amgen, Bayer HealthCare, Eli Lilly, Novartis, and Sanofi. The nine Wall Street analysts covering the company estimate that revenues from these deals will grow 150 percent in the year ending June 2013, to $41.4 million, according to Thomson Financial Network.

The partnerships have been more than just a source of revenue, Junius said. They’ve also been vital to bolstering confidence in the ADC technology. “Even at the board level there was some concern over whether the technology would have viability,” he said. “We needed the collaborations to address all the complexities associated with these multi-element compounds. I refer to [the years of partnering] as a gestation period that has allowed us to address issues with the technology, and give it the breadth of potential we enjoy today.”

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