A busy day for Genmab saw the Denmark-based firm secure full rights to the drug candidate from Medarex and announce plans to start a late-stage trial into head and neck cancer with HuMax-EGFr.

An asset-exchange deal has been agreed with Medarex, from which Genmab was spun out in February 1999, which gives the Copenhagen-headquartered group full rights to the antibody HuMax-Inflam, which is also known as MDX-018. Medarex will receive all the rights to “multiple disease programmes in oncology” and the firms said that they will release to each other “all previously-held economic interests” in the exchanged assets.

HuMax-Inflam is directed to interleukin-8, and Genmab said that it will initially focus on studies to treat glioblastoma, while other possible indications include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pustular dermatoses. Chief executive Lisa Drakeman claimed that Genmab’s development plans for HuMax-Inflam “have been a closely guarded secret for several years now and we are happy to announce the solution to the mystery, which has been much anticipated by the investment community”.

The HuMax-Inflam announcement was swiftly followed by the news that Genmab has started a Phase III head and neck cancer study, in cooperation with the Danish Head and Neck Cancer Group (DAHANCA), with HuMax-EGFr (zalutumumab). The study will include about 600 previously untreated head and neck cancer patients who will be treated with radiotherapy or HuMax-EGFr plus radiotherapy. Preliminary results from the study, which represents the largest HuMax-EGFr trial to date, are expected in three years and the patients will be followed for at least five years.