Amgen is bolstering its R&D pipeline with a deal to buy Dezima Pharma and its cardiovascular portfolio and a license agreement with Xencor to develop new drugs in cancer immunotherapy and inflammation.

The US biotech giant is shelling out an initial $300 million plus a further potential $1.25 billion (if certain milestones are achieved) to take the Netherlands-based, privately-held biotech Azima under its wing.

A key attraction is Dezima's lead molecule TA-8995, an oral, once-daily cholesteryl ester transfer protein inhibitor which, in a Phase IIb clinical trial for dyslipidaemia, cut levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 45% to 48% compared to baseline. 

"TA-8995 has demonstrated dramatic LDL-C lowering," said Sean Harper, executive vice president of R&D at Amgen. "With a portfolio of TA-8995 and Repatha, our recently launched LDL-C lowering PCSK9 inhibitor, we will be able to offer more treatment options with different mechanisms of action and modes of administration across varying LDL-C levels and risk profiles”.

Bispecific antibodies deal

Elsewhere, the firm’s development and commercialisation deal with Xencor is centred on using its XmAb Bispecific Technology to develop new therapeutic candidates for five programs proposed by Amgen. The agreement also includes development of Xencor’s own CD38 Bispecific T Cell Engager for multiple myeloma.

Bispecific technologies engineer monoclonal antibodies to bind to two unique drug targets, offering opportunity in immuno-oncology to simultaneously engage immune cells and tumour cells to pinpoint treatment to where it is most needed. 

Under the deal, Amgen takes on full responsibility for preclinical and clinical development and commercialisation worldwide, and will pay Xencor $45 million upfront and up to $1.7 billion in clinical, regulatory and sales milestone payments in total. 

Xencor also stands to gain mid-to-high single-digit royalties for candidates directed against Amgen's targets, and high single to low double-digit royalties for Xencor's CD38 bispecific T cell engager.