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It's nice to have a technology that everyone wants and can be used with different types of drugs. So-called platform drugmakers like ImmunoGen (Nasdaq: IMGN ) can rake in the cash over and over again while developing their own drugs on the side.
Novartis (NYSE: NVS ) was the latest to step up to the well for a drink yesterday. ImmunoGen has previously licensed its technology to Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN ) , Bayer, Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB ) , Biotest, sanofi-aventis (NYSE: SNY ) , and Roche.
ImmunoGen gets $45 million up front for licensing its Targeted Antibody Payload technology, and then for each drug developed, there's potential for about $200 million in milestone payments in addition to royalty payments if the drug makes it to market. The best part is that Novartis is responsible for all development, and when ImmunoGen does have to get involved, Novartis will repay the costs.
The TAP technology is similar to Seattle Genetics' (Nasdaq: SGEN ) antibody-drug conjugate technology; a drug is attached to an antibody that targets the drug to the right cells.
The most obvious application is in cancer, where the chemotherapy can be specifically targeted to tumor cells. In addition to potentially making the chemotherapy work better, the targeted antibody can also lower side effects since the chemotherapy isn't racing around the body attacking everything it sees willy-nilly. Recently presented data on ImmunoGen's most advanced compound, T-DM1, which Roche is developing, seem to support this: 66% of patients taking a combination of Roche's Herceptin and Sanofi's Taxotere lost their hair, compared to just 1.5% of patients taking T-DM1.
It's pretty clear that targeted antibodies are the wave of the future. Big drugmakers are going to turn their antibody drug candidates into potent killing machines, but it'll be the technology developers like ImmunoGen and Seattle Genetics that will be raking in the dough.
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