Crucell N.V. secured its first major deal based on its MAbstract antibody technology.

Crucell, of Leiden, the Netherlands, entered an alliance with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Centocor Inc., of Malvern, Pa., for the development and commercialization of Crucell¿s CD46-specific human antibodies, which are still in preclinical development.

The agreement covers three cancer indications ¿ multiple myeloma, breast cancer and colon cancer ¿ and a fourth indication that has not yet been determined, Crucell¿s vice president for corporate development and strategy, Arsia Amir-Aslani, told BioWorld International. The company has not publicly disclosed the precise terms of the deal, but it is based on a combination of up-front payments, an annual license maintenance fee, milestone payments and downstream royalties on product sales.

The most significant element of the deal, however, is Crucell¿s retention of European Union commercialization rights to CD46-specific antibodies. Speaking to analysts last week, CEO Dirko Valerio said Crucell has retained approximately 30 percent of the total future value of the program, while externalizing the associated financial risk.

¿To be able to negotiate the European rights for a compound is pretty impressive,¿ said Mike Booth, analyst at UBS Warburg, which acted as co-lead manager on Crucell¿s initial public offering last year. The deal also represents a validation of Crucell¿s MAbstract target identification platform, which employs phage antibody-display libraries to pinpoint disease-related conformational changes in protein structure that genomics and proteomics approaches fail to detect. Crucell has negotiated the right to use Centocor¿s regulatory filings for obtaining European approval, in return for a low single-digit royalty.

Last October, the company signed another big pharma deal ¿ with Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J. ¿ for its other main technology platform, the PER.C6 human cell line for the development of preventative and therapeutic vaccines.

¿The company looks incredibly cheap on the back of those two deals,¿ Booth said.

The PER.C6 platform is the subject of 18 deals in total.

Crucell¿s human antibody development arm currently has five candidates at the preclinical stage. These cover colon cancer, breast cancer, anti-angiogenesis, leukemia and inflammation. It plans to add two more validated targets annually. Its additional targets include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

The company, which is listed on Nasdaq and Amsterdam¿s Euronext exchange, ended the second quarter with EUR124.8 million (US$114 million) in cash. Its share price closed at US$6.90 on the day the deal was announced, up 11 percent on the previous day¿s close. Crucell was formed last year through the merger of IntroGene B.V. and U-BiSys B.V.

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