Celldex plans life after glembatumumab, cutting 2 more drugs from pipeline

stop sign (knerri61/Pixabay)
Another ADC and a cancer immunotherapy have been dropped. (knerri61/Pixabay)

Still reeling from the failure of its lead breast cancer candidate glembatumumab vedotin last month, Celldex has culled another two pipeline projects and now says it will focus its R&D efforts mainly on two cancer antibodies.

The New Jersey biotech says it has decided to discontinue work on CDX-014 was in phase 1 testing for  renal cell and clear cell ovarian carcinomas. Like glembatumumab, CDX-014  is an antibody-drug conjugate and Celldex said it will be expensive to develop further. Also for the chop is CDX-1401, an off-the-shelf dendritic cell-targeting vaccine that completed a phase 1 trial in 2012 as an immunotherapy for NY-ESO-1-expressing tumor cells.

The revamp leaves Celldex’ in-house pipeline headed by ErbB3-targeting antibody CDX-3379, which is in a phase 2 trial in head and neck cancer in combination with Eli Lilly’s Erbitux (cetuximab), and CD40 antibody CDX-1140 currently in a phase 1 trial pitting it against multiple solid tumors.

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It also has two candidates under development at partners, with Bristol-Myers Squibb taking the lead on varlilumab—a CD27 antibody in phase 2 as a duo with checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab)—and CDX-301, a dendritic cell growth factor in an investigator-led pilot study with radiation therapy in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

The update to the pipeline was delivered alongside Celldex’ first-quarter results, which revealed that it is sitting on around $123 million in cash and spent $28 million in the first three months of the year—although that figure is expected to decline dramatically after it cut 20% of its workforce last month.

The cutbacks came just a few days after the company’s CEO Anthony Marucci decided to scrap glembatumumab based on midstage data showing it couldn’t improve on chemotherapy with Genentech’s Xeloda (capecitabine) in patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancers who overexpress glycoprotein NMB. It wasn’t the first big setback for Celldex, which in 2016 also abandoned cancer vaccine Rintega (rindopepimut) following a failed phase 3 glioblastoma trial.

Based on our progress to date, we believe our cash on hand combined with proceeds from our established ATM [with Cantor] will support the continued development of our pipeline through 2020,” said Marucci. “This extended runway will provide for multiple inflection points, and we are solely focused on executing along these lines."