J&J bags $150M option on Genmab’s Darzalex successor 

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Genmab and Johnson & Johnson have teamed up to develop a successor to their multiple myeloma blockbuster Darzalex. The deal gives J&J the option to license the asset after clinical proof of concept for $150 million (€132 million) plus milestones and royalties. 

Anti-CD38 antibody Darzalex is one of the most successful new drugs of recent years, racking up $2 billion in sales last year. Genmab expects sales to hit $3 billion this year, and analysts at Jefferies think $10 billion is achievable in the long term. The sales targets reflect the potential for Darzalex to treat patients across the multiple myeloma pathway, particularly when a subcutaneous version is available. 

Genmab and J&J are already looking beyond Darzalex, though. Researchers at Genmab have created a CD38 monoclonal antibody that uses HexaBody, a technology designed to dial up the cancer-killing power of therapeutics.

Now, J&J has secured an option on the asset. Genmab will fund research and development up to the end of clinical proof-of-concept studies. At that point, J&J will have the option to pay $150 million upfront for a worldwide license for the asset. The agreement features $125 million in development milestones, plus 20% royalties through to 2031 and a tiered, 13% to 20% rate thereafter.

J&J struck the deal on the strength of preclinical data in a panel of multiple myeloma, lymphoma and leukemia models. Genmab thinks the data provide early validation that the HexaBody technology may enable it to improve on Darzalex. 

“Encouraging preclinical data suggest that HexaBody-CD38 could be superior to daratumumab for certain tumor cell types and may expand and extend the promise of CD38-targeted therapies for more patients with multiple myeloma, lymphoma, leukemia and potentially beyond,” Genmab CEO Jan van de Winkel said in a statement.

Genmab’s HexaBody platform seeks to boost efficacy by inducing the formation of clusters of six antibodies following target engagement, thereby enhancing complement-mediated killing. In its IPO filing, Genmab said HexaBody “may provide a useful strategy in product life cycle management.”

The HexaBody-CD38 program is absent from the list of assets referenced in the IPO filing, reflecting its early-stage nature. As such, the multiple myeloma market may have moved on by the time J&J has to exercise its option. Sanofi’s rival CD38 drug isatuximab is closing in on approval, while a clutch of anti-BCMA bispecifics, antibody-drug conjugates and CAR-T therapies are moving down the pipeline.

J&J has structured the deal to allow it to assess how clinical data on the HexaBody compares to the competition before forking over cash. If J&J declines its option to license the asset, Genmab will have restricted rights to develop and commercialize the drug. 

The deal permits Genmab to develop the HexaBody for use in patients who are resistant to Darzalex and in indications other than those targeted by the approved drug.