AbbVie, Ablynx enter inflammatory disease drug deal worth up to $840 million

AbbVie entered a global licence agreement potentially worth up to $840 million to develop and market Ablynx's anti-IL-6R Nanobody ALX-0061 for inflammatory diseases, the companies reported Monday. "This agreement is further evidence of AbbVie's commitment to pursue novel treatment options for autoimmune diseases," remarked Scott Brun, the drugmaker's vice president of pharmaceutical development.

Brun added that "anti-IL-6 antibodies are a proven mechanism of action for autoimmune diseases and ALX-0061 has shown potential in a Phase IIa clinical trial in [rheumatoid arthritis]." In February, Ablynx reported results from a Phase IIa study showing "strong efficacy" of ALX-0061 in patients with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis on a stable background of methotrexate.

The companies noted that under the deal, Ablynx will complete mid-stage development of ALX-0061 in both rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, with AbbVie exercising its right to the drug and taking over subsequent Phase III development if pre-defined success criteria are met. AbbVie will commercialise the therapy, with Ablynx retaining an option for co-promotion rights in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

AbbVie will pay Ablynx an upfront fee of $175 million, with the latter eligible to receive milestone payments totalling up to $665 million as well as double-digit tiered royalties on sales, the drugmakers said. KBC Securities analyst Jan De Kerpel remarked the terms of the deal are "well beyond our initial expectations." Shares in Ablynx rose as much as 14 percent on the news.

For further analysis, see ViewPoints: Why AbbVie needs to follow-up its Ablynx deal with some aggressive head-to-head trials.

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