Gilead and biotech strike antibody deal worth north of $1.1B--maybe

MacroGenics has landed a licensing deal with the biopharma powerhouse Gilead Sciences ($GILD) that could be worth more than $1.1 billion if four pre-clinical programs go perfectly.

In biotech programs almost never go perfectly. Nevertheless, MacroGenics has found a fourth major drugmaker to gamble on its bi-specific antibody platform, which has already brought the Rockville, MD-based biotech alliances with Pfizer ($PFE), Boehringer Ingelheim and Servier.

Since a diabetes drug partnered with Eli Lilly ($LLY) failed in Phase III in 2010, Rockville, MD-based MacroGenics has reinvented itself through a string of licensing pacts based on antibody assets and its DART technology for yielding dual-acting biotech drugs. In the Gilead deal, the company could pocket up to $30 million in license fees, $85 million in pre-clinical milestone payments and some $1 billion more down the road through the four programs.

Gilead, the world's top HIV drugmaker, and MacroGenics have not specified the four targets involved in their pact. However, the biotech's press release quotes Dr. Roy Baynes, the senior VP of oncology and inflammation therapeutics at Gilead. Baynes's group has been active lately with a pact worth up to $100 million with cancer experts at Yale in 2011. And last month it picked up experimental cancer drugs in a buyout of YM Biosciences for $510 million.

"This partnership [with MacroGenics]," Baynes stated, "underscores Gilead's commitment to developing innovative therapies that address significant unmet medical needs for patients with cancer and other life‐threatening diseases."

What's got so many drugmakers interested in MacroGenics' DART tech? The biotech hasn't even tested its antibodies from the platform in human studies. Yet the company's drugs can home in on two targets with one compound, and the compounds can be engineered to have prolonged durations of activity.

In a program partnered with Servier, MacroGenics is using a bi-specific antibody to turn assassins for the immune system into tumor killers to treat blood cancers. It aims to file an IND for the project in late 2013. 

- here's the release

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