AbbVie scoops up option to license Harpoon's BCMA drug for $50M upfront as biotech partner preps PhI/II trial
AbbVie is arming itself with another set of bow and arrows to shoot at BCMA in multiple myeloma — and this time it has turned to collaborators at Harpoon Therapeutics.
In paying $50 million for an option to license HPN217, AbbVie gains exclusive access to a Tri-specific T cell Activating Construct, or TriTAC, that is being steered to a Phase I/II trial. The dosing of the first patient will call for another $50 million in contingent milestone payment. Once Harpoon comes up with the data, its pharma giant partner will decide whether to officially add it to the arsenal.
It is an arsenal that already features a CD3/BCMA bispecific from Teneobio, a little known player until AbbVie swooped in with $90 million in cash this February. The Silicon Valley biotech’s pitch centers on a T cell engager platform that “involves a combination of a heavy chain only anti-BCMA binder and a novel anti-CD3 binder, which decouples target cancer cell killing from cytokine release.”
The relationship with MPM-backed Harpoon dates back to 2017, when AbbVie dished out $17 million upfront to kick off some discovery efforts on the TriTAC platform. The transaction announced today can be worth up to $510 million, the companies said.
“As our pipeline of initial TriTAC clinical candidates advance in prostate and ovarian cancers, we are thrilled to partner with AbbVie in pursuit of therapies geared towards hematologic cancers,” Harpoon CMO Natalie Sacks said in a statement.
BCMA is a particularly hot target for multiple myeloma, enticing a swarm of CAR-T developers like bluebird and Juno as well as inspiring notable efforts to develop bispecifics by Amgen and Regeneron. At last count, there were 38 BCMA-targeted agents in clinical development.
On top of HPN217, AbbVie is also doubling down on the discovery front, expanding the agreement to include two more TriTAC molecules and the option to select up to four additional targets. Each selected target could earn Harpoon up to $310 million in total.