BIND CEO Says Amgen Deal Marks Nanomedicine Turning Point

1/9/13Follow @cathyarnst

BIND Bioscience CEO Scott Minick is having a good JP Morgan Health Conference. As reported early Tuesday by Xconomy, he was able to announce just one day in to the meeting that BIND signed its first major drug development deal, worth at least $180.5 million, with biotech powerhouse Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) of Thousand Oaks, CA. But Minick told me that the deal also signals a turning point for the whole field of nanoparticle-based drugs, BIND’s research focus.

“I’ve been a little surprised at the pace at which [the pharmaceutical industry] has adopted nanomedicine,” said Minick in a phone interview from San Francisco, referring to medicines encapsulated in nano-sized particles. “I thought they would understand the impact and move faster.”

Although a number of startups are working on nanoparticle-based drugs, Minick believes that the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from the world’s largest biotech company marks an inflection point for the nascent technology. “Amgen has done tremendous work internally on nanoparticles, and they concluded that they want to make a significant effort in this area.” Amgen’s competitors will surely take notice as a result, he predicts.

BIND, based in Cambridge, MA, emerged in 2007 from the labs of famed MIT professor and Xconomist Robert Langer, and Omid Farokhzad, a professor at Harvard Medical School. The company is using the two professors’ method for developing highly targeted drugs for cancer and other diseases based on nano-sized particles, which BIND has named Accurins.

These microscopic particles are meant to ferry chemotherapies and other treatments directly to diseased cells while avoiding healthy ones. The idea is that the particles are so tiny that they can evade detection by the immune system, but then accumulate at the diseased cell and achieve higher drug concentrations than would be possible with a larger molecule.

BIND’s research is currently supported in part by the MIT-Harvard Center for Cancer Nanotechnology, which in turn is part of a $144 million investment by the National Cancer Institute in nanotechnology research. It also has $25 million in funding from Rusnano, Russia’s state-owned nanotechnology investment fund. But Minick says the Amgen deal represents the first major investment in nanoparticle-based drugs by a large pharma company.

BIND and Amgen plan to pair the Accurin technology with a cancer compound already developed by Amgen that targets a protein kinase, one of a family of enzymes that play a key role in tumor growth. Most of the newer targeted cancer medicines developed in the past two decades are kinase inhibitors, but Minick said it is always a challenge to ensure that these drugs target only diseased cells and not healthy ones. BIND will add two or more layers of nanoparticles to the kinase inhibitor to give the drug a laser-like focus on the cancer cells.

The Amgen collaboration calls for the two companies to work together on preclinical development, and then Amgen will take over future development and commercialization.The two companies started discussing the possibility of a partnership over the summer, and Minick says the companies want to move a compound into the clinic as quickly as possible. “We have very ambitious plans. We see this as a drug with major clinical impact, and both companies want to take it forward as fast as we can.”

Minick says the deal could yield well above $200 million to BIND, once all the royalties and additional milestone payments are factored in. For example, the deal calls for further payments above the $180.5 million if any drug that emerges from the program is approved for more than one type of cancer.

BIND already has a compound of its own in the clinic, BIND-014 for solid tumors, which combines nanoparticles with the chemotherapy drug docetaxel. The results of the Phase 1 trial, presented last April at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, showed antitumor activity in six out of 17 patients with advanced cancer, and it showed activity against tumors that don’t normally respond to docetaxel.

BIND plans to move forward with the compound into a Phase 2 trial. In the meantime, Minick says, he continues to talk to other pharma companies about partnerships.

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