Cilag GmbH International, an affiliate of Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, and argenx, a clinical-stage biotech, will collaborate on cusatuzumab (ARGX-110), an anti-CD70 simple antibody.
Cusatuzumab is currently in a Phase I/II combination study with Vidaza (azacitidine) for the treatment of newly diagnosed, elderly patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), who are unsuitable for chemotherapy.
Janssen and argenx have agreed to a joint global clinical development plan to evaluate the drug in AML, MDS, and potential further indications.
Per the agreement, Janssen will pay argenx $300m (€264.5m) upfront, and Johnson& Johnson Innovation (JJDC) will purchase $200m of newly issued shares, representing 4.68% of argenx’s outstanding shares.
Argenx will potentially receive an additional $1.3bn in development, regulatory, and sales milestones. In addition, the company will be eligible to receive royalties.
Janssen will lead efforts in research and manufacturing; it will also be responsible for commercialization worldwide, regulatory filings and approvals. Argenx retains the option to participate in commercialization efforts in the US.
A spokesperson for Janssen told us that the company believes cusatuzumab may hold “important potential as a treatment for patients with AML and high-risk MDS in the future.” The spokesperson further explained that the company believes that cusatuzumab may be a promising therapeutic for other CD70-expressing malignancies.
The transactions are subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019.