Bayer beefs up cancer drug pipeline with $520M armed antibody deal with Seattle Genetics

Looking to grow its pipeline of cancer drugs, Bayer has stepped up with a $520 million deal to partner with Seattle Genetics on its antibody-drug conjugate technology. Seattle Genetics, which has a who's who in oncology drug development signed on as ADC collaborators, gets $20 million of that upfront with the rest in milestones.

Seattle Genetics ($SGEN) has been hustling to make itself the partner of choice on ADCs, a booming field in biotechnology. Like most discovery pacts, these deals start small and are designed to get bigger as new treatments advance in the clinic. And Seattle Genetics can now count its potential revenue from collaborations in the billions.

"The significant clinical and preclinical progress across our ADC collaborations, and enthusiasm for our technology as demonstrated by this latest relationship with Bayer, continue to reinforce Seattle Genetics' leadership position in the field," said Natasha Hernday, head of corporate development at Seattle Genetics, in a statement. "Across internal and collaborator programs, there are more than 15 ADCs in clinical development using our technology, and we have the potential to receive more than $3.5 billion in future milestones plus royalties from these strategic alliances."

These armed antibodies promise a new approach to cancer, allowing developers to deliver highly toxic payloads directly to tumor cells. And now that Genentech's Kadcyla (T-DM1) and Adcetris have blazed a path to the market, these "smart bomb" programs are all the rage in biopharma. 

For Bayer, the deal puts the company in the lab with another prominent player in the cancer field. The German pharma company has been devoting a large portion of its multibillion-dollar R&D budget to cancer drugs. And it has been richly rewarded with a string of new product approvals. Nexavar--now expected to rake in about $900 million this year—has been pushed ahead alongside new cancer franchises for Stivarga and the newly approved Xofigo, the radium-223 therapy that marks a pioneering first in the field of pinpoint delivery for radiopharmaceuticals. Nexavar and Stivarga are partnered with Onyx ($ONXX) while Xofigo was in-licensed from Algeta. And Bayer is mapping out more growth for Nexavar by tackling hard-to-treat cancer groups likely to benefit from the drug.

- here's the press release