GlaxoSmithKline has linked up with Amplimmune to develop therapies targeting the PD-1 protein that may be effective in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

Under the terms of the agreement, GSK will pay the US firm an upfront fee of $23 million and could shell out up to $485 million in regulatory, development and sales payments. This includes milestones associated with an investigational new drug filing and conducting a Phase I trial next year of AMP-224, for which GSK has obtained exclusive worldwide rights. Amplimmune may also receive up to double-digit royalties on global sales.

AMP-224 is an Fc-fusion protein of the B7-DC ligand (also known as PD-L2) which targets PD-1 and the companies noted that in vivo studies suggest that this product candidate can induce immune responses to tumours and pathogens sufficient to ameliorate disease. Research directed toward understanding the mechanism of action of AMP-224 and its potential in oncology, infectious diseases and vaccine applications will be conducted by Amplimmune and GSK as part of the collaboration and they may develop other next-generation protein fusion candidates that target PD-1.

Amplimmune chief executive Michael Richman said “this partnership is an example of pharma and biotech companies working together towards a common goal of developing novel therapies for patients with unmet medical need and we look forward to advancing AMP-224 into clinical testing”.

Five Prime sarcopenia, cachexia deal
Meantime GSK has also signed a deal with muscle drug specialist Five Prime Therapeutics that could be worth around $140 million to the San Francisco-based group.

The agreement gives the drugs major an option to develop treatments for skeletal muscle disorders like sarcopenia and cachexia. In return, it will pay $15 million this year, made up of an upfront fee, taking an equity stake and payments related to research. Five Prime is also eligible for additional research payments in 2011 to 2013, and up to $124 million in potential option exercise fees and milestones, as well as tiered royalties.

Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass that accompanies normal aging and some 7% of men and 10% of women aged 60 or older have a severe form of the condition. Cachexia is muscle atrophy that accompanies several chronic illnesses including cancer, AIDS, chronic obstructive lung disease, congestive heart failure and renal failure.