Abbvie to partner with Genmab in $750 million cancer therapy deal

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FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the share price for drugmaker AbbVie on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange July 18, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) – Abbvie Inc (ABBV.N) said on Wednesday it is partnering with Danish biotech firm Genmab AS (GMAB.CO) to jointly develop and market cancer treatments, as it looks to expand its cancer franchise.

The U.S. based pharma giant will pay Genmab $750 million upfront to jointly develop and commercialize three of Genmab’s cancer-targeting antibody products, including its potential blood cancer treatment, epcoritamab, currently in a mid-stage study.

Genmab could receive up to $3.15 billion in additional development, regulatory and sales milestone payments.

AbbVie, which makes blockbuster blood cancer drug Imbruvica, is testing treatments for more than 20 different types of cancer, and has faced some research setbacks recently.

In August, the company abandoned experimental treatment Rova-T after the drug flunked a lung cancer trial and wrote off most of the $5.8 billion it paid the drug’s developer, Stemcentrx, in 2016.

The Genmab deal tops expectations and gives the Illinois-based drugmaker access to several experimental antibodies to strengthen its cancer portfolio, as well as allows Genmab to fend off fierce competition from Roche Holding AG (ROG.S) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc (REGN.O) in Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said Citi analyst Peter Verdult.

Abbvie plans to combine antibodies being developed by both companies with its antibody drug conjugates, described by researchers as “guided missiles”.

“By combining the strengths of our two organizations, we can advance the treatment landscape for patients battling cancer,” Michael Severino, AbbVie’s vice chairman, said in a statement.

U.S.-listed shares of Genmab were up 5% at $30.40 in premarket trading.

Reporting By Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi

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