) has signed a worldwide license agreement with Belgian company
Ablynx for the development and commercialization of the latter's
autoimmune disease candidate, ALX-0061.
The deal, worth more than $840 million, includes an upfront
payment of $175 million. AbbVie could make additional payments of
up to $665 million on the achievement of development, regulatory,
commercial and sales-based milestones. Ablynx is also entitled to
double-digit tiered royalties on net sales upon
ALX-0061, an anti-IL-6R Nanobody, is being evaluated for the
treatment of inflammatory diseases. Results from a phase IIa
study showed strong efficacy and safety in patients with
moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on a
stable background of methotrexate.
Phase II development for RA and systemic lupus erythematosus
(SLE) will be handled by Ablynx. Ablynx will use a part of the
$175 million upfront payment for the same. AbbVie will exercise
its right to in-license ALX-0061 depending on the achievement of
certain pre-defined success criteria.
Once AbbVie in-licenses the candidate, it will be responsible
for phase III development and commercialization. Co-promotion
rights in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg will be
retained by Ablynx.
AbbVie, which has a strong presence in the autoimmune disease
market thanks to its blockbuster drug, Humira, should make a
strong development and commercialization partner for Ablynx.
Meanwhile, this deal is in line with AbbVie's efforts to
expand and strengthen its autoimmune disorder pipeline. Earlier
this year, the company had extended its agreement with biotech
company, Galapagos NV, for the development of autoimmune disease
candidate, GLP0634, for Crohn's disease in addition to RA. AbbVie
also signed a deal with Alvine Pharmaceuticals for the global
development of a novel oral treatment for patients with celiac
disease, an autoimmune disease.
AbbVie currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). While we are
positive on AbbVie's strong late-stage pipeline, dividend yield
and growth strategy, we remain concerned about its dependence on
Humira. We believe AbbVie will continue pursuing in-licensing
deals and collaborations to boost its pipeline.
At present, large-cap pharma companies like
) look well-positioned. While Roche is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong
Buy) stock, Novo Nordisk and Bayer are Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)
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