AbbVie has signed a deal potentially worth up to $685 million to develop and commercialise argenx's ARGX-115, a preclinical-stage human antibody programme centred on the immuno-oncology target GARP. 

AbbVie says it believes the programme offers “a unique opportunity to explore the potential to block certain immune-suppressive pathways that allow cancers to grow”.

Under the terms of the deal, argenx will receive an upfront fee of $40 million from AbbVie for the exclusive option to license ARGX-115 and near-term preclinical milestones of $20 million. 

argenx is also eligible to receive additional development, regulatory and commercial payments up to $625 million upon achievement of pre-determined milestones as well as tiered, up to double-digit royalties on net sales upon commercialisation. 

The group has the right to co-promote ARGX-115-based products in the European Union and Swiss Economic Area and combine the product with its own future immuno-oncology programmes, but should AbbVie not exercise its option to license the drug, argenx retains the right to pursue development alone.

“In addition to the attractive financial elements of this transaction, our shared interest in the commercial potential of ARGX-115, including the right to co-promote the drug in Europe, makes this a highly strategic collaboration for argenx,” said the firm’s chief executive Tim van Hauwermeiren.

Chicago Uni link-up

The deal comes hot on the heels of news of AbbVie’s five-year collaboration with The University of Chicago, which aims to improve the pace of discovery and advance medical research in oncology at both organisations. 

Initially, both parties will work together to advance research in several areas of oncology, which could include, among others, breast, lung, prostate, colorectal and haematological cancers. 

AbbVie will provide funding for the collaboration, but also gains an option for an exclusive license to certain University of Chicago discoveries made under the agreement.