The deal focuses on CUG252, a potential best-in-class Treg-selective IL-2 mutein, as well as other novel IL-2 muteins.
CUG252 is currently in a Phase 1 study in healthy volunteers.
Under the terms of the agreement, AbbVie receives the option to license worldwide rights to CUG252 while Cugene, a biotech focused on developing next-generation precision immunology and oncology medicines, will receive an upfront payment of US$48.5m, and it will also be eligible to receive development and regulatory milestones and a payment if AbbVie exercises the option.
In addition, Cugene may also receive commercialization and sales-based milestones and tiered royalties.
During the option period, Cugene will conduct a Phase 1b study in patients with autoimmune/inflammatory disease. Upon exercise of the option, AbbVie will conduct all future clinical development, manufacturing, and commercialization activities for CUG252.
Selective IL-2 muteins have the potential to represent a major advancement in the standard of care for patients with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, said the partners.
Treating autoimmune diseases
Cugene's lead candidate, CUG252, is an engineered IL-2 mutein designed to selectively activate and expand immune-suppressive Treg cells while reducing undesired IL-2 activity on other IL-2 receptor expressing cells for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
Luke Li, CEO of Cugene, said AbbVie is an ideal partner for CUG252, given the company’s commitment to R&D, its deep therapeutic area expertise, and its global resources, which are needed to maximize CUG252's therapeutic potential for patients suffering from autoimmune diseases.
"AbbVie is committed to developing novel therapies in immunology where unmet needs remain for patients living with complex autoimmune and inflammatory conditions," said Tom Hudson, MD, senior vice president, R&D, chief scientific officer, AbbVie.