Supposedly big upfront money deals in biotech are dead. Somebody forgot to tell Amgen when they purchased BioVex and its OncoVex vaccine for $435 M upfront plus milestones that could run the total purchase price to $1 B. Why?
Xconomy today published an interview with Amgen's Roger Perlmutter, executive vice president of R&D, who is the staunch technical advocate behind the deal, and who explains why the deal was done.
- Amgen wants to get more heavily immersed in anti-tumor therapies
- BioVex offers a new oncolytic virus technology to both attack the tumor directly and to activate the immune system to attack straggler tumor cells
- BioVex virus design prevents virus from "hiding" from immune response and also carries a gene (GM-CSF) to evoke a greater immune response
- Early clinical data seems to show that BioVex vaccine is working in melanoma both at the primary tumor site and in cells that have spread, i.e. good news from the clinic so far
- Amgen can add the expertise to push the vaccine through its final paces in a phase III trial and then have wherewithal to commercialize thus adding value
Bottom line: Perlmutter believes the technology works and that it can be used to attack other tumors (cancers). The proof will come with the phase III trial results with both melanoma and head and neck cancer patients. Then it may be Amgen Rolling on the River.
Posted by Bruce Lehr Jan 26th 2011.