Fresh from getting US approval for the lupus drug Benlysta, Human Genome Sciences is expanding its pipeline by licensing-in a first-in-class anticancer biologic from FivePrime Therapeutics.

The drug in question is FP-1039, which targets multiple fibroblast growth factor (FGF) ligands. It is being evaluated in Phase I and has been shown to be safe and well tolerated to date, while patients are currently being screened for a Phase II trial for a form of endometrial cancer.

Under the terms of the agreement, HGS will pay an upfront fee of $50 million and FivePrime will be eligible to receive up to $445 million in future development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments, plus tiered double-digit royalties. In return, HGS gets exclusive rights to FP-1039 for all indications in the USA, Canada and the European Union.

HGS chief executive Thomas Watkins said the deal underscores the firm's commitment to developing novel targeted therapies that address significant unmet medical need. His counterpart at FivePrime, Julia Gregory, said the collaboration "will significantly broaden the clinical plan for FP-1039, enabling us to address the multiple tumour types".

These are interesting times for HGS which gained marketing approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for Benlysta (belimumab) for lupus last week. The latter, expected to be a blockbuster, is partnered with GlaxoSmithKline which also has a collaboration with FivePrime, for skeletal muscle disorders.