Pharma, R&D

Genentech axes its $1B-plus IDO drug deal with NewLink in the wake of underwhelming data

Six days after Genentech rolled out disappointing early-stage data on its IDO1 drug GDC-0919 (navoximod) in-licensed from NewLink Genetics, the big Roche subsidiary is kicking it out of the pipeline.

NewLink $NLNK announced that Genentech has handed back all rights to the drug, though its discovery partnership continues. The cancer drug specialist is walking away from a $1 billion-plus deal that was inked with $150 million upfront.

NewLink’s shares cratered once again on the news, falling 31% by mid-morning.

This is the latest in a series of gut punches to NewLink, which was sent reeling last year and was forced to restructure in the wake of the failure of its pancreatic cancer vaccine. IDO, a hot ticket in biotech now with Incyte $INCY evidently well in the lead, was supposed to be its path back.

The writing, though, was on the wall when investigators reported that GDC-0919 delivered only a 10% overall response rate in all tumor types in a combination study with Tecentriq — a PD-L1 checkpoint that is also under a cloud since the big Phase III failure in bladder cancer. Genentech is not known for pursuing futile work in cancer.

NewLink was also forced to concede 6 days ago that its in-house IDO inhibitor indoximod failed a Phase II study for breast cancer, making this a very bad, no good, awful week for the biotech.

Charles Link Jr.

“We are obviously disappointed in this decision,” said Charles J. Link, Jr., CEO of NewLink Genetics, in a statement. “We remain committed to advancing our IDO pathway inhibitor indoximod, which continues to generate exciting data in combination with anti-PD-1 agents, cancer vaccines, and chemotherapy in multiple cancer types including melanoma, prostate cancer, acute myeloid leukemia, and pancreatic cancer.”

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