The world has been beating a path to Seattle Genetics’s door the past couple years as it has proven it can make a “smart bomb” cancer drug work. And it’s translating into a series of more and more lucrative partnerships.
The company (NASDAQ: SGEN) said today that Abbott Laboratories has agreed to pay $25 million upfront for the right to use Seattle Genetics’s technology to make souped-up antibodies against an undisclosed number of molecular targets on cancer cells. This new agreement builds on an earlier deal Seattle Genetics struck with Abbott in March 2011, when the bigger company paid $8 million upfront for the right to make these potent antibodies against a single molecular target on cancer cells. Seattle Genetics also stands to collect $220 million in milestone payments for each cancer drug program if they reach certain benchmarks of progress in development, plus a “mid-to-high” single digit percentage royalty on sales if Abbott is able to develop any marketable products.
Seattle Genetics technology is designed to link targeted antibodies to toxins that give drugs more cell-killing punch, while making sure the toxin gets unleashed on the tumors, not the patient’s healthy cells. The concept, after many years of tough R&D, was validated when Seattle Genetics passed clinical trials and won FDA approval of its first such product, brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris) in August 2011. While Adcetris is the only FDA-approved product at the moment that uses this technology, there are now more than 15 other drug candidates in clinical trials using Seattle Genetics’s technology to hit cancer cells at different weak spots. Astellas Pharma, Bayer, Celldex Therapeutics, Daiichi Sankyo, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Millennium/Takeda, Pfizer, and Progenics are among the companies that have paid to license the technology against a variety of new targets, in hopes of coming up with drugs that are as effective as Adcetris.
Although many of those companies are leaning on the Seattle Genetics technology for making “antibody drug conjugates” the success of Adcetris and Genentech’s T-DM1 (which uses antibody-drug linking technology from Waltham, MA-based ImmunoGen) has inspired a wave of startups to come up with new and improved ways of making antibodies more potent. You can see a list of the aspiring challengers in this feature story I did back in May.