AbbVie, Teneobio ink $90M deal to develop BCMA bispecific for multiple myeloma

AbbVie
Tenebio expects to start clinical trials for TNB-383B in the first half of this year. (AbbVie)

AbbVie and Teneobio are joining forces to develop a bispecific antibody that targets BCMA and CD3. The Big Pharma is forking over $90 million to Teneobio’s affiliate, TeneoOne, to move the asset through phase 1. Under the deal, AbbVie also has the option to acquire TeneoOne, after which it will take over the development and commercialization of the drug. 

By targeting BCMA and CD3, the asset, dubbed TNB-383B, is designed to direct the body's own immune system to target and kill BCMA-expressing tumor cells. It is one of four preclinical programs in Teneobio’s pipeline. The other three are a trispecific antibody for the treatment of lymphoma, a bispecific for HIV and checkpoint inhibitors that are mono- and bispecific. Tenebio expects to start clinical trials for TNB-383B in the first half of this year. 

"We are excited to partner with AbbVie on our first clinical candidate, TNB-383B, which targets BCMA using our unique T-cell redirecting platform,” said Roland Buelow, Ph.D., the CEO of Teneobio and TeneoOne, in a statement. "Combined with AbbVie's commitment to scientific advancement and bringing oncology products to the worldwide commercial market, we will be able to quickly progress the development of TNB-383B for patients in need.”

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On top of the $90 million upfront payment, TeneoOne’s shareholders stand to collect regulatory and sales milestones if AbbVie pulls the trigger on acquiring the company. 

RELATED: ASH18: Amgen’s anti-BCMA bispecific shines again, but CAR-T threat remains  

The partnership comes after an active couple of months in the BCMA space. In December, Amgen presented early clinical data on its anti-BCMA T cell engager, AMG 420, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). AMG 420 binds to the same targets as TNB-383B and posted a 70% objective response rate (ORR) in patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma. However, its time-consuming delivery—via infusion—and looming BCMA-targeting CAR-T competitors could threaten its prospects. 

ASH saw data from more than 10 anti-BCMA programs, ranging from bispecific antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates to autologous and allogeneic CAR-T. Despite the crowded field, Jefferies analysts crowned Bluebird Bio’s CAR-T therapy bb2121 as “still leading the pack.” The treatment’s 95.5% ORR at the highest dose level—and its median progression-free survival of 12 months—"sets it apart from other competitors on both efficacy performance and development progress at this juncture,” they said. 

RELATED: Gilead drops anti-BCMA CAR-T from Kite, takes $820M charge 

But it hasn’t been a walk in the park for everyone. Gilead said at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in January that it would only press ahead with development of an anti-BCMA cell therapy for multiple myeloma, KITE-585, if its profile was very compelling. And signs, it turned out, pointed to no—the company canned the program, picked up in its $12 billion acquisition of Kite Pharma, just last week, triggering an $820 million impairment charge in the fourth quarter.

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