Affimed lands big, backloaded immunotherapy deal with Genentech, sending its stock into overdrive

Genentech is handing over $96 million (€82 million) in upfront and near-term payments to work with Affimed on NK and T-cell engagers. The deal features $5 billion in milestones and royalties that could land in Affimed’s bank account if the immunotherapies succeed.

Affimed has built its business upon a platform that generates multispecific NK and T-cell engagers. The drugs are designed to redirect innate and adaptive immune cells and thereby orchestrate attacks on tumors. For example, Affimed’s lead candidate AFM13 is a bispecific antibody that binds to CD30 on tumors and to CD16A to recruit and activate NK cells.

Germany’s Affimed has struggled to catch the wave of interest in immuno-oncology drugs, causing its market cap to slip below $100 million. But Roche's Genentech likes the look of the platform and has reignited interest in the company.

“This collaboration is based on Affimed's innate immune cell drug discovery and development expertise and our team's deep understanding of cancer immunology," Roche partnering chief James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., said in the announcement. 

In return for its $96 million outlay, Genentech has secured the chance to work with Affimed on the discovery- and research-stage testing of immune cell engagers. Affimed is contributing candidates generated by its platform to the alliance and agreeing to work on multiple solid and hematological tumor targets.

Once a candidate advances beyond late-stage research, Genentech will take sole control and guide it through clinical development and, potentially, commercialization. As it does so, the Roche subsidiary will hand over a growing slice of the $5 billion in milestones and royalties.

The validation of Genentech and potential for the deal to add significantly to Affimed’s coffers has triggered a surge in investor interest in the German biotech. Shares in Affimed were up more than 140% in premarket trading.