ImmunoGen forming alliance with Novartis to develop cancer treatment

The Waltham, MA-based biotech company ImmunoGen has signed a collaboration agreement with Novartis that lets the Swiss drugmaker develop targeted cancer therapy with fewer side effects. The news gave the targeted anticancer therapeutics developer another boost after recent positive data of its clinical stage program.

Under the agreement of using the company’s antibody drug conjugates technology to discover and develop cancer drugs, the US biotech ImmunoGen will get $45 million from Novartis upfront and is entitled to get further milestone payments of potentially up to $200.5 million for each target that results in an anticancer drug. The group will also receive royalties on any product sales, as well as financial compensation for research and any manufacturing done on behalf of Novartis.

ImmunoGen said that its targeted antibody payload (TAP) technology helps to achieve more effective and better tolerated cancer drugs, which might be 1,000 to 10,000 times more potent than traditional chemotherapy drugs.

ImmunoGen Chief Executive Daniel Junius said, “You use it as a targeted ability to deliver a highly potent agent that would kill the cancer cell. In this case it is doing it in a fashion that is less aggressive for healthy tissue and therefore doesn’t have the side effects you see with many of the traditional chemotherapeutics”.

Other oncology antibody-based therapeutic companies like Sanofi-Aventis and Roche are already collaborating with ImmunoGen to develop novel targeted cancer drugs.

A few month ago researchers have reported that Roche’s experimental breast cancer drug T-DM1, the first of a new kind of “armed antibody” combining Genentech’s HER2-targeting antibody, trastuzumab (Herceptin), with ImmunoGen’s DM1 cancer cell-killing agent, delivered a higher response rate with fewer side effects than the standard treatment.

In July, Roche filed a Biologics Licence Application (BLA) with FDA for T-DM1. Last Friday ImmunoGen also reported positive interim clinical data with T-DM1 for the first-line treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer at the 35th European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) meeting in Milan, Italy.

Similar technology for target cancer therapy was also developed by Seattle Genetics and Pfizer.