Spectrum bags cancer drugs, interferon platform from ImmunGene 

Close-up of handshake between person in suit and person in business shirt.
Spectrum thinks the anti–CD20-IFNα can mount a two-pronged attack on tumors. (Getty Images/FS-Stock)

Spectrum Pharmaceuticals has acquired an early-phase anti-CD20 cancer asset from ImmunGene as part of a broader deal. The agreement gives Spectrum an antibody-interferon fusion technology drug delivery platform designed to generate oncology candidates. 

University of California, Los Angeles scientists developed the platform, dubbed FIT, to fuse interferon with antibodies against tumor antigens. Interferon was hailed as a cancer breakthrough in the 1970s, only for systemic toxicity to restrict it to a marginal role in treating the disease. FIT is designed to unlock the cancer killing power of interferon while avoiding the side effects that restricted its use. 

“The FIT platform that we’ve acquired today represents a new class of biotherapeutics which may have the potential to make the administration of an antibody-interferon fusion protein feasible and allows Spectrum to harness this powerful immune activating cytokine,” Spectrum Chief Medical Officer Francois Lebel said in a statement. 

ImmunGene and its joint venture Valor Biotherapeutics advanced three candidates derived from FIT, the most advanced of which is in a phase 1 trial in relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In return for $3 million upfront, Spectrum is set to take control of that anti–CD20-IFNα, an earlier stage asset and the FIT platform that spawned them. The deal includes $156 million in milestones.

The small size of the deal and low profile of ImmunGene—which used money from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to advance the anti–CD20-IFNα—provide reasons to have moderate expectations for the drugs, particularly given the clamor for cancer assets. But Spectrum thinks the preclinical data show anti–CD20-IFNα can mount a two-pronged attack on tumors, inducing cell apoptosis, and that FIT-derived assets can complement checkpoint inhibitors. 

The second asset featured in the deal is an antibody-interferon fusion molecule aimed at GRP94, a molecular chaperone implicated in hematological cancers and solid tumors.