Five Prime grabs $5M lifeline in Seattle Genetics ADC deal

Five Prime Therapeutics’ interim CEO William Ringo
“This agreement allows Five Prime to realize value from our pre-clinical pipeline while prioritizing our clinical investments based on upcoming data readouts for our programs,” said CEO Bill Ringo. (Five Prime Therapeutics)

One day after Five Prime revealed its Opdivo-paired immuno-oncology prospect failed a midstage pancreatic cancer trial, the biotech is farming out some preclinical antibodies to keep its clinical-stage pipeline alive. 

The South San Francisco biotech is picking up $5 million upfront from Seattle Genetics in exchange for a family of monoclonal antibodies it’s developed. Under the deal, Seattle Genetics will develop antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) based on those antibodies, taking over all R&D, manufacturing and commercialization for those products. Five Prime did not specify how many antibodies are in this “family” but said it could receive up to $525 million in milestone payments for the first two ADCs that come out of the collaboration. 

“This agreement allows Five Prime to realize value from our pre-clinical pipeline while prioritizing our clinical investments based on upcoming data readouts for our programs,” said Five Prime’s interim CEO Bill Ringo in a statement Wednesday. “Looking to the future, we will continue to seek strategic partnerships that allow us to maximize the value of our assets and the long-term potential of the company.” 

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RELATED: Five Prime's new CEO wields ax, laying off 70 staffers 

On Monday, Five Prime and Bristol-Myers announced that their immuno-oncology combo of the former’s cabiralizumab and the latter’s Opdivo failed a phase 2 study in patients with pancreatic cancer. The pair inked a combination pact in 2014, expanding it the next year to a deal potentially worth $1.74 billion. 

Now, the Big Pharma “has no near-term plans for additional sponsored development of cabiralizumab” but will “continue to support the evaluation of cabiralizumab in select, ongoing investigator-sponsored trials and may continue to assess future development opportunities for the investigational asset.” 

The latest developments follow troubling times for Five Prime. The company laid off 41 staffers, about 20% of its workforce, at the start of 2019 and axed another 70 jobs “across all functions” nine months later. It said the cuts would result in $20 million in savings per year and that the company would “retain a small research group” focused on three “wholly-owned, late-stage research assets.” Along the way, Five Prime’s CEO Aron Knickerbocker quit to “pursue new challenges and opportunities."

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