Amgen buys another cancer-fighting virus project in a $10.5M deal

Amgen ($AMGN), months removed from a landmark FDA approval in oncology, is buying further into viruses that can hunt and kill cancer within the body.

The Big Biotech is paying $10.5 million up front for all outstanding shares of Catherex, an oncovirus-focused company that spun out of Germany's Medigene in 2010. Medigene still holds a 40% stake in the company.

In addition to the cash, Amgen has promised all Catherex shareholders undisclosed milestone payments and sales royalties tied to its own Imlygic, a re-engineered viral therapy approved earlier this year. In exchange, Amgen gets a portfolio of patents related to crafting oncolytic versions of herpes simplex virus, designed to invade cancer cells and kill them from within. Both parties expect the deal to close early next year.

Imlygic, developed as talimogene laherparepvec, became the world's first approved oncolytic viral therapy in October when the FDA cleared it as a treatment for advanced melanoma. Amgen is now working through a spate of clinical trials pairing its new therapy with other approaches to killing tumors, hoping to hit on combinations that can change the standard of care in a wide ranger of cancer types.

For Medigene, selling off its stake in oncolytics allows the biotech to focus on its dendritic cell vaccine programs and T-cell cancer therapies, the company said. The Munich-headquartered drug developer is running trials testing its DC therapies on prostate cancer and acute myeloid leukemia, plus conducting early-stage research into T-cell receptor therapeutics.

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