AbbVie scraps Infinity collab in wake of weak data; biotech slashes jobs

In a move that will surprise no one after this month’s poor study results, AbbVie ($ABBV) is cutting its losses and handing back the rights to Infinity’s ($INFI) lead blood cancer candidate duvelisib, while also cutting all ties with the biotech.

The decision comes two weeks after duvelisib hit the primary endpoint in a midstage study for indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma--but fell short of expectations, sending its shares down followed by an immediate cull of a fifth of its staff.

AbbVie began their collab back in 2014 in a blood cancer pact worth around $805 million in total, which included a development and commercialization deal for AbbVie with duvelisib, an oral PI3k-delta/gamma inhibitor.

The two had also been working together on an AbbVie-run Phase Ib/II study pairing duvelisib with venetoclax, but this was paused earlier this month after the trial. Today, this too will be axed, along with 58% of Infinity’s staff.

In a joint statement, the companies said they had been in discussions regarding a potential restructuring of the partnership--but were “unable to find a mutually attractive financial structure for continuation of the collaboration.”

Infinity now gets back worldwide rights to duvelisib, but it faces an uphill struggle to make this drug marketable. However, the company said it was still seeking an FDA filing this year by putting together data from across a number of trials.

“Our partnership with AbbVie and the significant, previously disclosed, funding was critical to our advancement of duvelisib through registration-focused clinical studies in indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia,” said Adelene Perkins, president and CEO of the Cambridge, MA-based biotech.

“Data reported to date have demonstrated that duvelisib is clinically active with a manageable safety profile, and we believe that it could play an important role in the future treatment of patients with hematologic malignancies, particularly for relapsing and/or refractory patients. We are now exploring strategic options for the program that could enable the submission of global regulatory applications and commercialization for duvelisib.”

Almost all of Infinity’s eggs are in one basket for duvelisib. The biotech has 7 ongoing studies in the pipeline with one early-stage effort for IPI-549 in solid tumors.

But this is something of déjà vu for the company, as back in 2012 its then-lead program for saridegib also failed a key test, which led to the company restructuring.

And this was three years after the 2009 failure for its Phase III RING trial after serious safety concerns for its stomach cancer drug.

This has left lingering questions over its drug development processes, and a major warning for any future partners that may want to join forces with the 15-year old biotech.

- check out the release

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