Ganymed Pharmaceuticals is the protagonist of Germany’s biggest biotech deal ever; Astellas Pharma has offered up to €1.3B to get hold of Ganymed’s first-in-class cancer antibody technology.
Ganymed Pharmaceuticals develops first-in-class antibody therapies for cancer. Its technology seems to be so promising that the Japanese Astellas Pharma has decided to acquire it in what will be the biggest Biotech purchase in Germany.
Astellas will pay €442M upfront and is offering up to an extra €860M pending the successful development of Ganymed’s pipeline lead candidate, IMAB362. The therapeutic antibody has orphan drug designation in the US and Europe and will soon enter Phase III.
What makes this technology worth so much money? Ganymed’s Ideal Monoclonal Antibodies (IMABs) bind to tumor antigens that are not expressed in healthy tissues, or at least at very low levels. This mechanism allows increasing the therapeutic effects while toxicity is maintained to a minimum.
IMAB362 targets claudin 18.2, a protein involved in cell-to-cell contact that only appears in the stomach. It is present in 80% of gastrointestinal cancers and 60% of pancreatic tumors. IMAB362 promotes an immune response against tumor cells expressing this target that can be amplified in combination with chemotherapy.
The previous biotech holding the acquisition record in Germany was Micromet, which was acquired for €900M by Amgen back in 2012. The deal seems to be paying off: Blincyto (blinatumomab), developed with Micromet’s BiTE technology, has made more than €5B ($5.5B) in sales in 2016 so far. Astellas is for sure looking up to follow this path.
Antibody-based therapies are crowding clinical pipelines and pulling in big cash for pharma. Humira (adalimumab) is the number one selling biological, with competitors queuing up to launch biosimilars when its patent expires. Recently, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) attracted the highest funding round of the year in Europe. Antibodies are also a promising approach for an HIV cure, making it clear that their potential is worth the investment.
Images via Elenarts /Shutterstock; Ganymed Pharmaceuticals