Astellas has agreed to pay €422m upfront to buy Ganymed Pharmaceuticals, a German biopharma company specialising in antibody-based cancer drugs.
If all goes according to plan, Ganymed’s shareholders could pick up an additional €860m in milestones, driving the value of the deal up to €1.28bn. The star of the deal is Ganymed’s IMAB362 (claudiximab), a first-in-class CLDN18.2 protein inhibitor which is in phase II testing for gastroesophageal cancer.
Clinical data reported at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in June showed that adding IMAB362 to standard chemotherapy extended progression-free survival from 4.8 to 7.9 months and the overall survival from 8.4 to 13.2 months.
Besides gastric cancer, CLDN18.2 is found in a variety of other tumours, including pancreatic, lung, oesophageal and ovarian cancers, leading to speculation that IMAB362 could be on course to become a blockbuster. It is absent on healthy cells so should be highly selective.
Astellas has been working hard to build up its oncology portfolio, currently headed by prostate cancer treatment Xtandi (enzalutamide), which is partnered with Pfizer. Last year it signed a wide-ranging immuno-oncology deal with Potenza Therapeutics and followed it up with a $300m licensing deal with Immunomic Therapeutics.
It also has a 10-year-plus collaboration with Seattle Genetics covering microtubule-disrupting antibody-drug conjugates, which are in mid-stage clinical development.
“Oncology is one of our focus therapeutic areas and key drivers for our growth,” said Astellas chief executive Yoshihiko Hatanaka.
“The acquisition of Ganymed will enable Astellas to further expand our oncology presence by adding a late-stage antibody asset with the potential to establish a new pillar following Xtandi.”
Beyond IMAB362, Ganymed also has several other oncology drugs in preclinical and clinical development, notably IMAB027, a first-in-class antibody targeting CLDN6 in phase I testing. CLDN6 is found in a wide range of solid tumours, including testicular, ovarian, uterine, and lung cancers.
The takeover is expected to close in the next few weeks, subject to customary regulatory approvals, and once completed Ganymed will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Astellas.
Article by Phil Taylor
31st October 2016