Johnson & Johnson's Janssen has entered into an agreement potentially worth up to $1.6 billion to develop and market Argenx' cusatuzumab for a number of cancers, including haematological malignancies.

Cusatuzumab, also known as ARGX-110, is an experimental antibody that targets CD70 and is currently in Phase I/II trials in patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes.

Under the deal, Janssen will make an upfront payment of $300 million, with Argenx eligible to receive milestones of up to $1.3 billion, as well as tiered, double-digit royalties.

Argenx is enrolling an initial 21 AML patients in the Phase II portion of the trial using the 10mg/kg dose of cusatuzumab.

In Phase I, the firm evaluated 12 newly diagnosed AML patients unfit for intensive chemotherapy, and the data showed an overall response rate of 92% (11/12 patients), including 10 patients with a complete remission with or without hematologic recovery, and one partial remission.

"We believe CD70 is an important target in the biology of select cancers, and we are eager to accelerate the development of this innovative antibody together with Argenx," remarked Yuri Elsayed.

As part of the transaction, Johnson & Johnson will also make a $200-million equity investment in Argenx.