Gilead bags Genmab tech to develop bispecific antibody against HIV

Gilead ($GILD) has struck a deal to access bispecific antibody technology from Genmab (CPH:GEN). The agreement gives Gilead an exclusive license to use the Danish drugmaker’s bispecific platform to create an HIV therapeutic, plus an option to take up another exclusive license on the technology.

In return for the exclusive license, Gilead is paying $5 million (€4.5 million) upfront and committing to up to $277 million in milestones. And, in the event the HIV drug makes it to market, Genmab will also pocket single-digit royalties. The agreement sets similar terms for Gilead’s as-yet-unexercised option on a second exclusive license.

Gilead has entered into the commercial agreement a little more than two years after gaining access to Genmab’s bispecific platform through a research collaboration. At the time, Genmab only referred to Gilead as an “undisclosed biotechnology company.” In the intervening period it has outed Gilead as the undisclosed biotech, and now it has gone a step further by revealing its plans for the platform.

By gaining access to a bispecific antibody platform, Gilead has strengthened its hand in a field of HIV research that is the subject of a growing body of scientific literature. Teams at NIH, The Rockefeller University and Duke University are among those active in the field. The Duke group has teamed up with MacroGenics ($MGNX), a Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)-partnered bispecific biotech, on its efforts.

The NIH and MacroGenics’ research programs both involve bispecifics that bind to a HIV protein and the CD3 receptor. Hitting both these targets enables the bispecific to bring together killer T cells and HIV-infected cells and, in doing so, have the immune system attack reservoirs of the virus. The team at Rockefeller are pursuing a mechanism involving HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein.

As it stands, neither Gilead or Genmab have disclosed which targets are covered by their agreement, but the former’s interest in bispecifics shows the technology is being taken seriously in HIV. While the hepatitis C boom has defined Gilead in recent years, its HIV franchise generated sales of close to $10 billion last year. If the bispecific now in development at Gilead goes on to form part of that franchise, Genmab will add another revenue stream to its growing business.

The Copenhagen, Denmark-based biotech now lists J&J, Novartis ($NVS) and Novo Nordisk ($NVO) alongside Gilead on the list of top drugmakers that have licenses to use its bispecific antibody platform. In keeping with the Gilead agreement, the deals are heavily backloaded but have the potential to be tidy earners for Genmab.

- read the release

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