The pace of development for a handful of next-generation cancer therapies is about to get a huge boost. AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) and Genmab (NASDAQ:GMAB) signed a collaboration deal on Wednesday involving three clinical-stage cancer drug candidates, plus up to four additional candidates down the road.

AbbVie and Genmab will jointly develop and commercialize three bispecific antibodies that can target surface proteins found on cancer cells with one side while the other side attracts tumor-hungry immune cells. The partners also agreed to apply each other's proprietary technology to four additional cancer drug candidates that they might find lingering in their libraries.

Pile of cash and prescription drugs.

Image source: Getty Images.

AbbVie will pay Genmab $750 million up front and up to $1.15 billion in milestone payments for the three candidates in development now, plus up to $2 billion more if four additional new cancer therapies emerge successfully from the partnership. They will share responsibilities for the development and commercialization of all candidates involved with the exception of the antibody furthest along in the development process, epcoritamab. If it's eventually approved, Genmab's eligible to receive a royalty percentage between 22% and 26% on sales of the CD-20 targeted antibody outside of the U.S. or Japan.

AbbVie isn't the only big pharmaceutical company investing heavily in bispecific antibody development. Late last year, Roche posted results that showed 54% of patients treated with its CD-20 targeting bispecific antibody, mosunetuzumab, responded to treatment, and 43% achieved complete remission. In a phase 1 study, an exciting 13 out of 15 lymphoma patients responded to treatment with monthly injections of epcoritamab.

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