Amgen has entered into a license and collaboration agreement with Evoq Therapeutics worth over $240m, with the aim of developing novel drugs for autoimmune disorders.
Although details of the deal are sparse, Evoq said in a statement that it will collaborate on preclinical development for the novel treatments – while Amgen will retain responsibility for clinical development and commercialisation.
Under the terms of the deal, Amgen will gain exclusive rights to ‘selected’ autoimmune programmes for a sum totalling more than $240m. This includes upfront and milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties on sales of resulting therapies.
Evoq’s technology focuses on targeting dendritic cells (DCs) – a type of cell which primes immune response and tolerance in regulatory T cells.
The company believes that its NanoDisc technology – a high-density lipoprotein platform – can deliver antigens to dendritic cells residing in lymph nodes to evoke an immune response.
In a preclinical ‘gold-standard’ model for multiple sclerosis, Evoq said this technology demonstrated ‘breakthrough efficacy’.
“Success with this preclinical model is considered proof of concept for the potential utility of a therapy in a wide range of autoimmune diseases,” the company added.
Amgen’s autoimmune franchise includes psoriasis blockbuster Otezla (apremilast), which it picked up from Celgene after it merged with Bristol Myers Squibb in 2019.
The divestiture of Otezla was a key antitrust requirement imposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on the BMS/Celgene merger.
When Amgen acquired Otezla in 2019, it said that it expects “at least low double-digit percentage Otezla sales growth, on average…over the next five years”.
Otezla fits right into Amgen’s existing psoriasis and anti-inflammatory product range, which includes Enbrel (etanercept) and Amgevita, its biosimilar of AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab) which is approved and already available in Europe and approved ahead of a likely US launch in 2023.
Looking to the next generation of autoimmune disorder treatments, Amgen’s deal with Evoq refocuses the company’s ambition to bring new drugs in this therapy area through the clinic.