Pfizer calls it quits on CytomX deal as research comes to naught

Pfizer HQ
(Image: Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany/CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Pfizer has been slowly but surely backing out of its $635 million armed antibody tech deal with CytomX in the last few months, and during the biotech’s financials posted late yesterday, the final nail was drilled into this fruitless pact.

In 2013, the big pharma teamed up with the South San Francisco-based CytomX Therapeutics on a discovery program, putting the biotech’s R&D platform to work on finding some next-gen antibody-drug conjugates for cancer targets.

CytomX got just $25 million in near-term payments and research support, but with a biobucks promise of up to $610 million more in payments from back-ended sales and regulatory milestones, along with a royalty stream on any approved therapies.

Sponsored By Syneos Health

Blazing a Trail to Clinical Trial Diversity: Four-Part Webinar Series from Syneos Health, Featuring Pharma, Clinical Research and Community Health Leaders

This series will identify obstacles that stifle appropriate patient diversity in trials; unpack the organizational overhaul needed; share how sponsors, patients & investigators have come together to overcome hurdles; and explore how policy innovations can move the industry forward.

RELATED: Pfizer turns to upstart CytomX for $635M deal on armed antibody tech

Fast forward five years, and things have not gone to plan. The original pact included the selection of up to four PDC targets in cancer; the first of these was targeting EGFR mutations, but Pfizer’s pulled out of this, giving certain rights back to CytomX.

The collab programs against the second and third targets were then culled during the first quarter, coming after it had “previously declined its option to select a fourth target in the collaboration,” according to the biotech.

Now, buried within its financials, CytomX says it has “received notification of Pfizer’s intent to terminate the companies’ research collaboration, option and license agreement” altogether, and comes after none of the programs from this pact ever reached the clinical candidate stage.

RELATED: Bristol-Myers Squibb, CytomX pen expanded $3.6B biobucks research deal

CytomX still has pacts with other big pharmas, including Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb and AbbVie, which includes combo programs with next-gen cancer meds, and billions in back-loaded biobucks (although, as this has proved, you can't count your biobuck eggs before they've hatched).  

In its full-year update, and as of Dec. 31 last year, CytomX had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of $374.1 million; enough to keep going til 2020.

The company saw its shares nudge down by more than 2% afterhours on the news, with a market cap of $1.3 billion.