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12:00 AM
 | 
Nov 08, 2010
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Networking antibodies

Genmab aims to be antibody R&D engine and stock up on strategic partnerships

Even before Jan van de Winkel was promoted to president and CEO of Genmab A/S in June, the company had realized it was living beyond its means and started paring back. He has accelerated the process, putting forward what he believes is a more realistic strategy: the company will delay its transition into a commercial organization and, in the near to mid-term, hopes to turn its antibody R&D engine into a profit center.

With a valuation one-fourth what it was two and a half years ago, and half the cash it had then, cash preservation is now a key focus.

As a result, Genmab no longer plans to take all its internal programs into late-stage development. Instead it will look to generate non-dilutive capital through increased partnering. The company also will seek to monetize its antibody platform through multi-target deals, such as last month's partnering with H. Lundbeck A/S to discover and develop mAbs for CNS indications.

Additionally, van de Winkel said Genmab will look to in-license new technologies, a strategy it had not pursued before. The first such deal was completed in September, which gave the company access to antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology from Seattle Genetics Inc.

van de Winkel said the plan is to turn Genmab into a "networked antibody company" with access to new technologies and a variety of partnerships that reduce Genmab's capital risk while advancing its pipeline. By 2020, he hopes Genmab will have 10 key strategic partners, and possibly five antibodies on the market.

van de Winkel said most of these five products will be partnered. Still, he added, "when our cash position would allow, I would love to push at least one of them to the finish line ourselves."

Seeds from Arzerra

Genmab's ambitions to become a commercial company were planted in December 2006 by a deal with GlaxoSmithKline plc to co-develop Arzerra ofatumumab. The human mAb against CD20 was then in Phase III trials to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) that is refractory to Rituxan rituximab, and to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The mAb was also in Phase II testing to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and for first-line CLL.

Genmab received $102 million in license fees and $357 million in an equity investment and an option to co-promote Arzerra, along with an option to co-promote two GSK cancer drugs. The equity investment gave GSK a 10% stake in Genmab.

Then in 2007, Genmab got back one late-stage product and a preclinical mAb when Merck Serono S.A., a unit of Merck KGaA, returned rights to HuMax-CD4 zanolimumab and HuMax-TAC following a portfolio review.

Zanolimumab, which targets the CD4 receptor on T cells, was in Phase III testing for cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL), with...

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