Amgen has linked up with fellow US firm Micromet to develop cancer antibodies in a deal that could be worth 695 million euros to the latter.

The collaboration centres around research of bispecific T-cell engager (BiTE) antibodies against three undisclosed solid tumour targets. Amgen will have the right to pursue development and commercialisation of BiTE antibodies against up to two of these targets.

Cashwise, Amgen is expected to pay 10 million euros upfront and if milestones in multiple indications and tumour types are achieved, Micromet is eligible to receive up to 342 million euros in milestone payments for the first antibody. plus double-digit royalties. The terms for the second BiTE programme are similar and combined potential payments to Micromet, excluding reimbursement of R&D costs, are in the region of 695 million euros.

The partners noted that "the initial development plan" contemplates 25 million euros in funding of Micromet R&D activities if two BiTE antibodies are advanced to the investigational new drug stage. All costs will be borne by Amgen.

Amgen's head of R&D, Roger Perlmutter,  said that the BiTE antibody "provides an innovative approach to cancer therapy,” while Christian Itin, Micromet’s chief executive, said the collaboration fits its strategy to expand development of these antibodies into solid tumour indications with a partner and "brings important non-dilutive capital into the company".

Micromet already has alliances in place with Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit, Merck Serono, Nycomed and Sanofi. Its lead product blinatumomab, which is not partnered, is in a European Phase III  trial in patients with minimal residual disease positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.