* ImmunoGen to get upfront payment of $45 mln
* Comes after positive data for Roche/ImmunoGen cancer drug
By Katie Reid
ZURICH, Oct 11 ImmunoGen Inc (IMGN.O) has signed
a deal with Novartis NOVN.VX that lets the Swiss drugmaker
develop anticancer treatments with fewer side effects, ImmunoGen
said, giving the U.S. group another boost after recent positive
ImmunoGen, which is already working with Sanofi-Aventis
(SASY.PA) and Roche (RO.S)ROG.VX, will get an upfront payment
of $45 million from Novartis and is entitled to get 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.
The news comes days after researchers said Roche's
experimental breast cancer drug T-DM1, which it is developing
with ImmunoGen, delivered a higher response rate with fewer side
effects than the standard treatment. [ID:nLDE6971Y3]
T-DM1 is the first of a new kind of "armed antibody" that
can carry a cell-killing payload into cancer cells.
ImmunoGen's cancer-cell killing agents are 1,000 to 10,000
times more potent than traditional chemotherapy drugs and the
targeted antibody payload (TAP) technology helps to achieve more
effective and better tolerated cancer drugs, ImmunoGen said.
"You use it as a targeted ability to deliver a highly potent
agent that would kill the cancer cell," ImmunoGen Chief
Executive Daniel Junius told Reuters on Monday.
"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," Junius said.
At 1012 GMT, shares in Novartis were trading 0.5 percent
higher, slightly better than the European healthcare sector
index. .SXDP Shares in ImmunoGen were bid around 3 percent
higher at $7.30 in pre-market trading, Reuters data showed.
ImmunoGen's main rivals include Seattle Genetics (SGEN.O)
and Pfizer (PFE.N) after its acquisition of Wyeth, which had
been working on a similar technology. Bristol-Myers Squibb
(BMY.N) also bought a company that was working in this area.
Junius said the upfront payment gave the group extra
liquidity to work on its own compounds and said ImmunoGen wanted
to stay independent as it had "significant opportunity" to
develop this technology with its own compounds as well as with
"Being acquired is not an objective of the company," Junius
said when asked whether anyone had approached ImmunoGen.
Speculation over which company could be the next takeover
target has taken hold since Sanofi-Aventis launched a $18.5
billion hostile bid for U.S. biotech Genzyme last week. Many
investors speculated Swiss biotech Actelion ATLN.VX could be
the next target. [ID:nLDE6970E3]
ImmunoGen, which has licenses with Amgen (AMGN.O), Bayer
Schering Pharma (BAYGn.DE), Biogen Idec (BIIB.O) and Biotest
(BIOG.DE), is also speaking to other companies, but Junius said
it was still not clear if this would result in more licenses.
(Editing by Michael Shields)