Deals

Amgen comes up with $1.5B package to partner with CytomX on a preclinical Probody approach to cancer

About six months after Bristol-Myers Squibb forked out $200 million in cash to expand its work with CytomX $CTMX and the precision biology tech found on its Probody antibody platform, Amgen has signed off as the biotech’s latest marquee collaborator.

Just as Bristol-Myers $BMY was drawn to Probodies for a shot at a new and better CTLA4, among other things, Amgen $AMGN is coming in for a T-cell engaging bispecific targeting the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), a high-value target expressed on multiple cancer types. They’re building on the biotech’s preclinical work on an EGFRxCD3 program.

CytomX will collect a $40 million upfront, another $20 million for a chunk of equity and up to $455 million in milestones. And there are three more undisclosed targets on the table, which could deliver another $950 million in upfront and milestone payments.

Shares of CytomX shot up 34% on the news Tuesday evening.

In a twist, CytomX is also getting rights to an Amgen program — a preclinical T-cell engaging bispecific program. Amgen can stand to earn some cash from that as well, though they kept the terms out of their statement.

Sean McCarthy

CytomX’s growing lineup of big league admirers have signed off on an essential part of the biotech’s pitch: They can use better targeting to concentrate their T cell bispecific directly in the tumor microenvironment, sparing healthy tissue and avoid the kind of toxicities that have been a key limiting factor in the field.

“This deal is another example of a key application of our tech to solve a problem,” says CEO Sean McCarthy, who took a minute with CFO and corporate development chief Debanjan Ray to chat about it.

In this case, Amgen gets the right to pick up the late-stage work, but CytomX also has an opportunity to co-fund the pivotal work, leaving them a route to split profits at a later point.

“We consider Amgen the leader in the bispecific space,” says Ray, in part because of the Blincyto program picked up in the Micromet buyout 6 years ago, as well as the in-house work it’s been doing. In this case, they’re going for a next-gen approach that has the potential to overcome key limitations.

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