Drug Development

Amgen barrels into a $540M immunotherapy deal with Advaxis

Amgen has joined the immunotherapy partnering frenzy. The Big Biotech is signing up with the little biotech Advaxis, collaborating on its technology using bioengineered bacteria to recruit a T cell attack on cancer.

Amgen $AMGN is paying $65 million upfront to get the deal kickstarted, with $25 million reserved for an equity stake in the company. Amgen is also adding $475 million in milestones for the deal as it picks up development responsibilities after Advaxis $ADXS is done with its proof-of-concept work for the still preclinical program for ADXS-NEO.

Shares of Advaxis soared 28% on the power pact.

Advaxis work is based on engineering live attenuated Listeria monocytogenes. By sequencing a patient’s cancer cells, along with normal cells, investigators will search for neo-antigens in cancer cells that can be targeted with specifically designed vectors. As such, the tech represents one of the new immunotherapy fronts in the R&D war on cancer, which has been consuming billions of dollars in research money in pursuit of new blockbusters.

Advaxis CEO Daniel J. O’Connor

Advaxis CEO Daniel J. O’Connor

“After the ADXS-NEO infusion, neoepitope peptides corresponding to each patient’s cancer-associated mutations are delivered directly into their antigen presenting cells by Lm-LLO, where they can stimulate cellular immune responses against multiple neoepitopes simultaneously,” notes Advaxis’ statement on the deal.

Clinical trials for ADXS-NEO are expected to begin in 2017.

“With Amgen’s resources, worldwide reach and a culture that embraces science and innovation, we are positioned to accelerate the clinical development program for ADXS-NEO to improve the lives of those who suffer from cancer,” said Advaxis CEO Daniel J. O’Connor.

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