Janssen Pharmaceutical affiliate Cilag International has signed a global collaboration and license agreement with Dutch biotechnology company Argenx for cusatuzumab (ARGX-110).

Cusatuzumab is an investigational antibody designed to block CD70 and destroy cancer cells expressing the immune checkpoint target. CD70 is known to be associated with haematological malignancies, various solid tumours and severe autoimmune diseases.

At present, the therapeutic is being assessed in combination with Vidaza in a Phase I/II clinical trial for newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukaemia and high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes.

Cusatuzumab is also undergoing evaluation in the Phase II part of the trial involving patients suffering from relapsed/refractory cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL).

As part of the new deal, argenx and Janssen will work together on a global clinical development plan to further investigate the drug candidate for the treatment of AML, MDS and other potential future indications.

“Janssen is an ideal strategic partner for us to develop this differentiated investigational therapy given its extensive clinical, regulatory and commercial expertise in oncology.”

Argenx CEO Tim Van Hauwermeiren said: “Janssen is an ideal strategic partner for us to develop this differentiated investigational therapy given its extensive clinical, regulatory and commercial expertise in oncology, and we believe that through this collaboration we are best positioned to reach the broadest number of patients as quickly as possible.”

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Hauwermeiren added that the alliance bolsters the company’s financial position and supports its growth.

As part of the agreement, Janssen will make a $300m upfront payment to Argenx, which is also eligible for up to $1.3bn in development, regulatory and sales milestones. Additionally, Argenx will receive tiered, double-digit royalties.

Furthermore, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC has agreed to make a $200m equity investment in Argenx.

Janssen will be responsible for global commercialisation of cusatuzumab, while Argenx retains an option to participate in commercialisation efforts in the US.

In the US, the partners will equally share economics on a royalty basis, and outside the country, Janssen will pay double-digit sales royalties to Argenx.

Subject to customary closing conditions, the transactions are set to be completed in the first quarter of next year.