Amgen widens cancer reach in $1B-plus Micromet deal

Amgen, the world's largest biotech, is firing up another deal to advance its expanded emphasis on cancer drug development. The biotech Micromet says that Amgen has become its latest major partner in the development of specialized antibody drugs that kick the body's immune system into action against tumors.

For now, Micromet and Amgen aren't revealing which specific cancer targets are involved in the deal, but Amgen has the option to develop and commercialize Micromet's drugs against up to two solid tumor targets of its choosing. For this, Amgen is paying Micromet $14.1 million upfront. Micromet says that it could earn total potential payments from the two programs with Amgen of $977.1 million, which, when added to the down payment and potential sales royalties, puts this deal into the potential $1 billion-plus strata.

For Amgen ($AMGN), the deal appears to be another in a number of calculated steps to build up its pipeline of novel cancer drugs, building on its potential $1 billion buyout of BioVex announced in January. With the Micromet ($MITI) deal, Amgen gets its hands on the developer's so-called BiTE antibodies, which pack a unique punch against cancer because they are designed to recruit the body's own soldier T cells to attack tumor cells. Micromet's technology has already helped the developer grab partnerships with major drug companies such as Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim and Sanofi, among others.

"The BiTE antibody provides an innovative approach to cancer therapy," Roger Perlmutter, head of R&D at Amgen, said. "Amgen is pleased to collaborate with the Micromet scientific team to deploy this technology against targets for the treatment of solid tumors."

- here's Micromet's release
- see Reuters' coverage