UPDATED: Amgen scoops up Micromet tumor-fighting pipeline for $1.2B

Not to be left out of the M&A rush, Amgen said this morning that it will buy German/U.S. cancer drug developer Micromet ($MITI) for $1.16 billion in cash. At $11 a share, the deal gives its investors a 33% premium on yesterday's close.

Amgen ($AMGN) gets Micromet's U.S. headquarters and an R&D center in Munich, where its scientists have been hatching new antibody programs to fight cancer using its BiTE technology. The buyout follows a licensing pact last July in which Amgen agreed to a small upfront in a billion-dollar discovery deal. Now the big biotech gains the whole package, which includes Micromet's lead treatment, blinatumomab, a bispecific T cell engager (BiTE) now in mid-stage development for acute lymphoblastic leukemia--one of 5 trials for the drug now underway.

"Nothing changed," says Amgen R&D chief Roger Perlmutter, when asked about the short span between the research deal and the buyout. "This has been a pretty long campaign. I've been carrying a torch for (CSO) Patrick Baeuerle at Micromet for a long time. I believe they have found a better way to kill tumor cells."

Simply put, the BiTE technology uses an antibody to redirect killer T cells to destroy tumor cells. "It is really, really hard to get it to work well," says Perlmutter. But that's what Micromet was able to achieve over the past decade.

Perlmutter was particularly excited to see the most recent data on the lead program in December, which showed that 70% of patients with relapsed or refractory lymphoblastic leukemia patients--the most difficult to treat group--achieved a complete response. "There was no evidence of a residual tumor," says Perlmutter. "That's a remarkable result."

Amgen is interested in a lot more than the lead program. The same technology has the potential to work in solid tumors, which would greatly increase its value in oncology. And now Micromet's Munich center will become a new "center of excellence" in Amgen's worldwide operation, adds Perlmutter, something the biotech figured in last fall when it restructured its research division.

"The acquisition of Micromet is an opportunity to acquire an innovative oncology asset with global rights and a validated technology platform with broad potential clinical applications," said outgoing Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer. "Blinatumomab will serve as an important complement to our oncology pipeline and is representative of our corporate strategy, which is focused on developing and successfully commercializing therapeutics to treat patients with grievous illness." 

The deal also marks a final success for Micromet CEO Christian Itin, who's been shepherding the company into the mid-stage point.

- here's the press release