Celgene ditches option to license OncoMed’s navicixizumab

Celgene partnered with OncoMed in 2013, in a deal worth up to $3.3 billion. (Celgene)

Celgene is walking away from navicixizumab, a bispecific antibody that became OncoMed’s lead asset after midstage failures scuppered a couple of other candidates. However, Celgene is holding on to its options to license two other pipeline hopefuls: etigilimab, an anti-TIGIT monoclonal antibody, and rosmantuzumab, an anti-RSPO3 antibody.

The big biotech made headlines in 2013 when it signed over $177.25 million to partner with OncoMed on its cancer programs. Under the deal, worth up to $3.3 billion, Celgene would co-market six of OncoMed’s products in the U.S. and take the lead on ex-U.S. commercialization. With Celgene backing away from navicixizumab, OncoMed will retain worldwide rights to the drug.

“While we are disappointed in Celgene’s decision, we thank them for the productive interactions in evaluating navicixizumab, and we respect their decision given their pipeline prioritization and focus,” said John Lewicki, Ph.D., OncoMed president and CEO, in a statement. “With the global development and commercialization of navicixizumab remaining under our control, we are evaluating potential opportunities for the program and will continue to assess the data as it evolves for navicixizumab in combination with paclitaxel in heavily pretreated platinum-resistant ovarian cancer patients.


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OncoMed has been testing navicixizumab in tandem with paclitaxel in a phase 1b trial involving patients with platinum-resistant late-stage ovarian cancer.

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It’s been a rough couple of years for OncoMed. In January 2016, the company halted a phase 2 study of its Notch-targeting tarextumab in pancreatic cancer because of worsening response rates. A new year brought new woes, with OncoMed announcing in April 2017 that its lead asset demcizumab, an anti-DLL4 antibody, failed to best placebo in a phase 2 pancreatic cancer trial. The same day, the company revealed that Bayer would abandon the option to license a pair of Wnt pathway inhibitors: vantictumab and ipafricept.

And its troubles didn’t stop there. Another tarextumab fail triggered a portfolio review for OncoMed, culminating in a decision to cut 50% of its workforce and refocus its R&D efforts.

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Specifically, the company said it planned to “focus internal efforts on the advancement of three clinical-stage programs to key milestones and continued immuno-oncology drug discovery and development, while seeking to partner select pipeline assets.”

OncoMed also said that it had “aligned internal resources” with an eye to increasing the likelihood of getting more cash via milestone payments, including those with Celgene for early-stage work on navicixizumab, rosmantuzumab and etigilimab, which, at the time, could be worth nearly $100 million over the following two years.