J&J unit strikes antibody drug deal with biotech Genmab

Danish biotech Genmab has nabbed a deal with Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen Biotech to develop bispecific antibody drugs, taking a rather modest $3.5 million upfront fee but gaining the opportunity to reap billions of dollars in future payments.

Genmab has now nailed down two Big Pharma partnerships in as many months, as the biotech announced another heavily back-ended deal in June to work on bispecific antibodies for Swiss drug giant Novartis ($NVS). In the latest deal, Genmab has agreed to work with Janssen on up to 10 bispecific antibody programs, tapping the biotech's same DuoBody platform to identify candidates that can seek out two targets rather than one to combat disease. The company didn't say which disease targets it will pursue in the Janssen pact.

"Since the introduction of our DuoBody platform in 2010, we have believed in its potential to become the preferred technology for next-generation bispecific antibody therapeutics. Today's announcement is another indicator that the pharmaceutical industry recognizes our leadership in the therapeutic antibody field," Jan van de Winkel, Genmab's CEO, said in a statement. "We very much look forward to working with Janssen in creating trend-setting bispecific antibody treatments."

Genmab's J&J deal is in its infancy, of course, but the drug giant has agreed to shell out up to about $175 million in milestones for each of the bispecific antibody programs. Multiply that number by 10 and you're talking about some serious potential paydays for Genmab.

- here's Genmab's release
- see Reuters' article