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Fresh from AbbVie deal, argenx sees growth but cuts two R&D collabs

August 26, 2016
Life sciences

Belgium biotech argenx has seen its income double on the back of a strong year of deals, but has also seen fit to cut two former R&D pacts.

First up, the figures, which saw operating income for the past 6 months hit €7 million ($7.9 million), up from €4.3 million it made in the same period last year, as it enjoyed the fruits of collabs with Leo Pharma in February and AbbVie in April.

The latter deal was in fact worth a potential $685 million and is based around its preclinical immuno-oncology candidate, which could hit a host of cancer targets.

This contender, ARGX-115, works by stimulating a patient’s immune system after a tumor has suppressed the immune system by co-opting different immunosuppressive cells such as regulatory T-cells (Tregs)–which can inhibit other immune effector cells through the production of active TGF-β.

The company also sold shares worth about €16 million ($17.5 million) to the major U.S. asset manager Federated Investors at the start of the year, as it looked to take a step further into the U.S. market.

The biotech has previously told FierceBiotech that it will likely one day soon seek to list on the Nasdaq. In June, the company also raised an extra €33 million from U.S. investors.

In an update on its experimental meds in the clinic, argenx said it was set to start its first combo trial in leukemia in the second half of the year, with its trial design to be presented at its upcoming R&D day.

The biotech spent €11.2 million in research by the end of June compared with the €9.3 million at the same point last year. This increase, the biotech said, was mainly due to the hiring on new R&D staffers, given its increased activities, as well as the share-based payment costs recognized in compensation for the grant of stock options to the R&D employees.

But argenx has also culled several collabs, including all research under its former pact, and exclusive product license option agreement, with Bayer.

This collaboration originally started back in May 2014 and sought to validate the SIMPLE Antibody program. But the deal has now been ended, and argenx said it “will re-deploy resources from the Bayer collaboration to support its own proprietary programs as well as its Innovative Access Program.”

It also terminated the contract with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society following the “corporate decision” to not study ARGX-110, its lead cancer candidate, in Waldeström’s macroglobulinemia.

Its CEO Tim Van Hauwermeiren was however pleased with a “seminal quarter.” He said: “We made substantial progress against several very important corporate goals: advancing our clinical and other pipeline programs and in closing a significant financing with key U.S. institutional investors as well as entering into a strategic transaction with AbbVie for our oncology candidate AGRX-115.

“We believe these accomplishments have driven argenx forward to become a new and more substantial company with a full and mature clinical pipeline, an advanced platform and the financial and strategic support to derive value from them.

“During the quarter we announced data from our Phase I MAD and SAD studies of ARGX-113 which led to the selection of our Phase II dose and demonstrated the drug’s strong safety profile and its ability to rapidly reduce IgG levels in healthy volunteers.

“Our lead oncology candidate ARGX-110 showed further evidence of anti-tumor activity in T-cell lymphoma patients and is on track to announce top-line data in this expansion cohort by end of year. We are looking forward to executing on our strategic plan for the remainder of 2016 to bring ARGX-113 into two Phase II indications and to examine the breadth of potential for ARGX-110 as a monotherapy and a combination agent in TCL and AML.”

By Ben Adams

Source: Fierce Biotech

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