The deal works out to $170m (€149m) in up-front payments, with the equity payment working out at $72m.
In return for the cash and investment, AstraZeneca receives the full rights to monalizumab – a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that is currently in trials for head and neck, as well as colorectal cancer.
A spokesperson for the company explained to us why it had made the move for the drug candidate: “We saw the promise of monalizumab when we began our agreement with Innate in 2015, and we see it now. In fact, coming on the heels of ESMO 2018, we continue to see a steady drumbeat of data to support its promise in a variety of settings and in combination with various agents. Monalizumab is a strong complement to our IO [immuno-oncology] portfolio.”
The ESMO (European Society for Medical Oncology) results referenced were Phase II data released at the event showing an overall response rate of 27.5% and overall survival of 10.3 months in patients with head and neck cancer treated by monalizumab.
One growing area of immuno-oncology research is using treatments in combination with one another, and the spokesperson for AstraZeneca confirmed the company had such plans for newly acquired mAb.
“The monalizumab development plan includes a Phase I dose-expansion combination trial with durvalumab in solid tumours as well as multiple Phase II trials to study monalizumab efficacy as a monotherapy and in combination with currently approved treatments in several cancer indications,” the spokesperson explained.
Durvalumab is also known by the brand name Imfinzi, and is the company’s PD-1 inhibitor – one of a new wave of treatments that are showing strong results in treating cancer.
In addition to acquiring monalizumab, AstraZeneca has further advanced its pipeline by adding a development collaboration deal for Innate’s CD39 mAb and the option to license four molecules from the French biotech’s preclinical portfolio.
As part of the deal, Innate will pick up AstraZeneca’s recently approved treatment for hairy cell leukaemia, Lumoxiti (moxetumomab pasudotox-tdfk).
When asked why the company had decided to divest the asset, the spokesperson told us that it would still work to maximise the potential of the therapy “through collaboration”. This will involve AstraZeneca co-commercialising the product alongside Innate. In return, Innate will pay $50m, alongside a potential further $25m in commercial and regulatory milestone fees.