BioWorld International Correspondent

Genmab A/S partnered a preclinical project in organ transplant rejection and T-cell mediated disorders, HuMax-TAC, with Serono SA in a deal that could be worth up to $40 million in up-front and milestone payments, plus royalties on eventual product sales.

Copenhagen, Denmark-based Genmab is booking $2 million of that total as an up-front payment. Serono, of Geneva, gains exclusive worldwide rights to the product and is taking on all development costs.

"This is part of our strategy. We've been diversifying part of our portfolio from the beginning," Genmab CEO Lisa Drakeman told BioWorld International. "It balances risk for us."

HuMax-TAC is a fully human monoclonal antibody that binds the T-cell activation antigen, also known as CD25 or interleukin-2 receptor alpha subunit. Two other products that bind the same target already are approved in organ transplant rejection: daclizumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody marketed as Zenapax by F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, and basiliximab, a chimeric monoclonal antibody marketed as Simulect by Novartis AG, also of Basel.

Last year, Roche entered a deal worth up to $205 million with Protein Design Labs Inc., of Fremont, Calif., to co-develop Zenapax in asthma and related respiratory conditions. Serono also is likely to look beyond the organ transplant market, Drakeman said.

"I think their interest is much broader than that," she said.

News of the deal failed to move investors. Genmab's shares closed Monday, the day the deal was disclosed, at DKK113.50 (US$19.65) on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange, having ended the previous week at DKK112.

Michael Novod, analyst at the Copenhagen office of Handelsbanken, said the market attached little significance to the deal, as the project is still preclinical.

"From our perspective it has no value," he said. Handelsbanken added one Danish crown to its undisclosed target price on the stock to reflect the up-front payment but otherwise made no adjustment.

Björn Andersson at Redeye in Stockholm, Sweden, said there are a number of other programs that are more important price triggers, including the Phase III program for HuMax-CD4 in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and HuMax-CD20, which is undergoing Phase I/II studies in several indications, including rheumatoid arthritis.

"There are strong expectations, growing everyday for this product," he said.