Avenzo, Merck KGaA and AbbVie each ink new deals to fortify cancer pipelines

Avenzo Therapeutics, Merck KGaA and AbbVie each inked new deals to top up their cancer […]

Avenzo Therapeutics, Merck KGaA and AbbVie each inked new deals to top up their cancer pipelines, with the former two companies handing over a combined $85 million in upfront cash.

Avenzo disclosed Thursday that it has locked arms with Allorion Therapeutics, snapping up ex-Greater China rights to the early-stage CDK2 blocker AVZO-021. The enzyme has been shown to hamper the impact of CDK4 or CDK6-targeting therapies in patients with HR-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer and can drive tumor development in other kinds of cancers, according to Avenzo. The med is currently in a phase 1 trial in patients with breast cancer and other patients with solid tumors. Avenzo can also tack on a preclinical asset from Allorion slated for IND submission in early 2025.

In exchange, Avenzo is paying Allurion $40 million upfront with more than $1 billion in biobucks attached to milestones for both AVZO-021 and the preclinical program. The money comes from nearly $200 million in funds raised in the middle of 2023, thanks to the likes of Lilly Asia Ventures and SR One.

Avenzo is the latest venture from ex-Turning Point CEO Athena Countouriotis, M.D., who helped lead a $4.1 billion buyout from Bristol Myers Squibb in June 2022.

Avenzo wasn’t the only biotech to hit the dealmaking trail, with Merck KGaA tacking on ex-US licensing rights to Inspirna’s phase 2 colorectal cancer med, ompenaclid. Inspirna has aimed the med specifically at patients with RAS-mutated, advanced forms of the cancer, showing at last year’s European Society for Medical Oncology annual meeting that the drug produced a 37% objective response rate in 30 evaluable patients. The median progression-free survival was 10.2 months in a slightly larger sample size of 41 patients.

The German pharma is paying $45 million upfront with an undisclosed amount of biobucks on the table. Merck also has the option to co-develop and co-commercialize the med in the U.S. alongside Inspirna.

Last but certainly not least, AbbVie, fresh off its end-of-the-year shopping spree, is heading back to the deal well, this time for Umoja’s cell therapies. The top prize is licensing rights to Umoja’s lead in-situ candidate UB-VV111, currently in IND-enabling studies. The asset is the first test of Umoja’s in-vivo CAR-T, aiming to break some of the limitations associated with current autologous manufacturing processes. Umoja plans to ask regulators to enter a phase 1 trial in the first half of this year.

The second part of the deal is a larger discovery pact for up to four additional in-situ candidates, aimed at targets selected by AbbVie. All told, Umoja received both an undisclosed upfront payment and equity investment, with $1.4 billion in milestone payments available.

Original Article: (https://www.fiercebiotech.com/biotech/avenzo-merck-kgaa-and-abbvie-each-ink-new-deals-fortify-cancer-pipelines)