By Estel Grace Masangkay
International biotech firm Genmab announced that it has agreed to transfer its ofatumumab collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline to Novartis.
Ofatumumab is a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that targets the CD20 molecule detected on the surface of normal B lymphocytes and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells. The drug is approved in the U.S. for use together with chlorambucil for treatment-naïve patients with CLL who are not eligible for fludarabine-based therapy. In the EU, ofatumumab is indicated for use in combination with chlorambucil or bendamustine for treatment-naïve patients with CLL and for whom fludarabine-based therapy is not an option.
GSK and Genmab have been investigating ofatumumab in a Phase 3 study as maintenance therapy for replased CLL, the results of which were reported this July. Findings show that ofatumumab achieved the primary endpoint of efficacy and favorable safety profile.
As part of the agreement, Novartis will take the lead in the development and commercialization of ofatumumab in further oncology indications, while GSK will continue developing and marketing the drug for autoimmune indications. Genmab will not be obliged to pay funding liabilities worth around GBP 19 million or to fund drug development costs of ofatumumab beyond the end of the year. The company said this represents aggregate savings of up to GBP 60 million. This will help Genmab fund follow-up projects on its other CD20 products.
Dr. Jan van de Winkel, CEO of Genmab, said, “The collaborations with Novartis and GSK for this innovative therapeutic antibody will help ofatumumab reach its fullest potential, while improving cash flows.”
The deal transfer comes after Novartis’ purchase of GSK’s oncology products, which includes ofatumumab. The acquisition of Genmab and GSK’s ofatumumab deal will be completed by Novartis once it has closed its deal with GSK, expected in the first half of 2015.
Genmab said the transaction will not affect its 2014 financial guidance.