In 2008 Nycomed - a European pharma company acquired by Takeda Pharmaceuticals in 2011 - signed a licensing agreement for the development of Immunomedic’s veltuzumab for the treatment of all non-cancer indications for an initial $40m (€29.5m), with potential payments worth $580m.
However, Immunomedics announced earlier this week that the agreement has been terminated by Takeda with the worldwide rights to veltuzumab - a humanized antibody that targets the CD20 receptor on B cells - returning to the New Jersey, US-based firm.
Speaking with Biopharma-Reporter.com, Dr. Chau Cheng a Senior Director at Immunomedics said the licensing agreement was for Nycomed “to develop the antibody in rheumatoid arthritis but their efforts were delayed one way or another.”
Further delays to the development of the antibody arose when, “in September 2011, Nycomed was acquired by Takeda, who decided to switch indication to lupus,” Cheng added.
According to a form filed with the SEC, Immunomedics notified Nycomed in May this year that the Nycomad “was in material breach of the Agreement” and arbitration proceedings were initiated by Immunomedics in order to resolve the dispute last month.
The filing added both parties have begun procedures to return veltuzumab back to Immunomedics with Nycomed required to supply certain services to Immunomedics for a year. Cheng said: “With the return, we will be free to develop veltuzumab on our own or through other partners in a licensing arrangement.”
Immunomedic’s share price plunged 14% on Wednesday following the announcement.
The antibody targets the CD20 receptor on B cells by binding to the cell, forming a cap and drawing proteins over to that side, changing the effectiveness of natural killer cells in destroying diseased cells, in a similar way to the mAb rituximab.
Rituximab is co-marketed by Biogen Idec and Genentech in the US as Rituxan, and is approved for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis.
According to Cheng, “the difference between veltuzumab and Rituxan is that the latter contains 30% mouse protein whereas veltuzumab has only 5%.”
Cheng added that Rituxan’s worldwide sales for 2012 stood at $7bn.