Seattle Genetics’ prospective $2 billion licensing deal not without controversy

pharmafile | February 13, 2017 | News story | Sales and Marketing Immunomedics, Seattle Genetics, enVio 

Immunomedics announced on 10 February that it had entered a licensing agreement with Seattle Genetics for its leading experimental cancer drug, IMMU-132. The deal works out at $250 million up-front, with a further $50 million related to rights outside the US, Canada and the EU – the rest of $1.7 billion is tied up in future milestone payments.

Though milestones are usually set as distant targets, the money could start coming in shortly for Immunomedics after it files for the BLA. The appeal of the experimental drug is that it could be ready for commercialisation very quickly – possibly within the year. Investors had previously worried about Immunomedics potential to manufacture the drug but it is now presumed that Seattle Genetics may be able to iron over these difficulties.

The drug would fit neatly into Seattle Genetics current portfolio, as both they both develop antibody-drug conjugates, with IMMU-132 being an antibody that contains SN-38, the active metabolite of irontecan, that is designed to target tumour cells.

However, the deal is not quite as simple as it seems. Firstly, as part of the deal, Immunomedics is able to continue negotiating with other parties until 19 February. Seattle Genetics has the option to match the bid or it can allow the deal to fall away, receiving a termination fee.

Beyond this, the deal represents only the front behind a power struggle in the background of Immunomedics. venBio owns a 9.9% stake in Immonomedics and has reacted badly to the news, claiming that the board is “giving away its crown jewel”. Part of the deal with Seattle Genetics gives it a 2.8% stake in the company, with an option to increase that up to a 9.9% stake – matching venBio’s exactly.

The deal also resulted in a proposed annual board meeting being pushed back from 16 February to 3 March, with the stated reason being to allow investors to digest the news of the deal. venBio were seeking to have directors placed on the board and the deal with Seattle Genetics could directly challenge that.

The drug at the centre of this debate is projected to potentially earn $3 billion in sales by 2025, which would contribute greatly Seattle Genetics’ lymphoma drug, Adcetris, which brought in $256.8 million of sales last year.

Ben Hargreaves

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