Booming AVEO inks $555M antibody deal with J&J

With its lead cancer drug forging ahead in Phase III and a major development deal with Astellas helping pay for a burgeoning staff, Cambridge, MA-based AVEO announced a new development pact with Johnson & Johnson this morning. J&J's Centocor unit will fork over $15 million upfront and up to $540 million in milestones for the biotech's internally discovered antibodies targeting the Recepteur d'Origine Nantais receptor, a potential tumor regulator. Half of that upfront comes as cash, the other half through the purchase of stock.

"We are delighted to enter into this strategic alliance," said Elan Ezickson, executive VP and chief business officer of AVEO. "We believe that the RON pathway is a promising novel target for combating cancer growth and progression. This license agreement highlights the broad potential of our unique monoclonal antibody R&D capabilities and further supports AVEO's strategy to maximize our proprietary cancer biology platform to build a sustainable cancer therapeutics company."

AVEO has been going strong this year, adding new staffers in the wake of its $1.4 billion deal with Astellas for tivozanib and gaining a high profile in the cancer drug development arena. In the deal today, Centocor Ortho Biotech agreed to fund certain research conducted by AVEO, including translational research studies using its Human Response Platform to identify biomarkers for patients most likely to benefit from treatment with RON-targeted antibodies.

- read the AVEO release