Genmab expands immunology reach in argenx pact

By Jonathan Smith

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Antibody The Netherlands Denmark Immunology

In a move to increase its presence in immunology and inflammation, the Danish biotech Genmab has launched a collaboration with argenx in the Netherlands to co-discover and co-develop antibody treatments.

In the multi-year collaboration, the partners will pool their antibody drug expertise to co-develop a candidate therapy for an undisclosed indication in immunology and another in oncology. The deal also has the potential to include more programs over time.

Genmab and argenx will equally share the costs of the development, as well as any future profits that come from the collaboration. Further financial details of the deal were not revealed.

Genmab’s biotech clout

Both partners are European biotech heavyweights in the field of antibody therapeutics; Genmab’s market capitalization tops around $28bn while argenx’s market capitalization hits roughly $21bn.

Genmab specializes in the development of bispecific antibodies via its DuoBody platform in addition to antibody clusters called hexamers from its HexaBody technology. Bispecific antibodies can bind to two different targets at the same time, which can increase the selectivity and efficacy of the antibody. Antibody hexamers, meanwhile, are designed to trigger the immune response in cancer.

Genmab is well known for its central role in the development of successful antibody cancer treatments in the market. Examples include daratumumab, marketed by Janssen for the treatment of forms of multiple myeloma, and ofatumumab, which is marketed by Novartis to treat multiple sclerosis and forms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

“Genmab is entering the therapeutic area of immunology and inflammation as a stepping stone to achieving its vision that by 2030, our knock-your-socks-off ‘KYSO’ antibody medicines will be transforming the lives of people with cancer and other serious diseases,” stated Jan van de Winkel, Chief Executive Officer of Genmab, in a joint press release with argenx.

“By partnering with argenx, we will be able to combine our deep knowledge of the biology and therapeutic power of antibodies and have an opportunity to address patients’ needs in oncology as well as in immunology and inflammation.”

Argenx: inspired by the llama immune system

Argenx, in turn, engineers antibody drugs with inspiration from the immune system of the llama. Llamas produce high quantities of antibodies, and the parts of these antibodies that bind to their targets have a similar structure to those of human antibodies. This means they can be an effective alternative to using mice genetically engineered to produce human antibodies.

The lead candidate in argenx’s immunology-focused pipeline, efgartigimod, was approved for the first time by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2021​. The antibody fragment drug, branded as Vyvgart, is indicated for the autoimmune condition generalized myasthenia gravis in adults who test positive for the anti-acetylcholine receptor antibody.

“Through our collaboration with Genmab, we are bringing together our combined antibody discovery, development and commercialization expertise to unlock insights on the disease pathways that we will address,” stated Tim Van Hauwermeiren, Chief Executive Officer of argenx. “This allows us to broaden our capabilities and maximize the opportunity to generate novel therapeutic antibodies within autoimmunity or cancer.”

Immunology attracting deals

Genmab isn’t the only company strengthening its presence in immunology in recent months. In March 2022​, Sanofi inked a $6bn deal with IGM Biosciences to co-develop antibody drugs for the treatment of diseases in immunology and inflammation. And in October​, AbbVie purchased DJS Antibodies for $255m in a bid to expand its portfolio in immunology.

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