Monoclonal antibodies are again in the hot seat for alliances. On November 11 2009 Alder Biopharmaceuticals, a Seattle-based biotechnology company specialising in antibodies struck a deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb that could be worth more than $1 billion. At present this stands as one of the largest partnerships announced for 2009.
Under the deal, Britsol-Myers Squibb gains a worldwide exclusive license to develop Alder’s drug, ALD518, a monoclonal antibody, for all potential uses except cancer. Bristol has the option to market the drug as a treatment for cancer outside the US. In return, Alder will get $85 million in upfront cash, as much as US$764 million in payments for reaching development and regulatory milestones, sales-related milestone payments that could exceed $200 million, and an undisclosed royalty rate on product sales. Alder may also require Bristol to make a US$20 million equity investment to support an initial public offering, if it chooses to go that route.
Alder has developed the antibody ALD518 to follow Roche’s tocilizumab (Actemra). The Roche drug, the first in its class, is an antibody designed to block the receptor of an inflammatory protein called IL-6 that hammers the joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients. This approach could offer doctors an alternative to the $10 billion-a-year class of drugs that block a different protein called TNF, like Amgen’s etanercept (Enbrel) and Abbott Laboratories’ adalimumab (Humira). Analysts estimate the sales of Roche’s drug could annually capture about $2 billion of this huge market.
Using its proprietary technology to develop monoclonal antibodies in yeast instead of mammalian culture traditionally used elsewhere, Alder’s antibody, which like the Roche drug is designed to block the IL-6 protein target, has the advantage of not only being cheaper to produce but the potential to last longer in the bloodstream and therefore can be given less frequently than other antibodies, possibly as little as three or four times a year instead of once a month. Alder has completed a Phase II trial with about 120 patients who got ALD518 for rheumatoid arthritis, but the results have not yet been made public.
The alliance is the second big partnership Bristol has signed with a Seattle biotech company this year. In January the company entered an alliance with ZymoGenetics to co-develop and market a new interferon drug with fewer side effects for hepatitis C patients. The deal could be woirth more than $1 billion. It is also the second collaboration for Alder this year, having agreed in June 2009 to develop new antibodies for neurological disease for Schering-Plough in June 2009.