Amgen pays $900M for Teneobio and bets bigger on next-gen antibody drugs

Dive Brief:

  • Amgen has agreed to acquire privately held biotech Teneobio for as much as $2.5 billion in a deal meant to broaden the big biotech’s ability to develop antibody drugs for cancer and potentially other diseases.  
  • Per deal terms, Amgen will pay $900 million in cash for Teneobio and could add another $1.6 billion in downstream payments if certain unspecified conditions are met. The buyout, expected to close in the second half of 2021, gives Amgen both an antibody drug technology and a group of cancer drugs in either early-stage or preclinical testing.  
  • The buyout is the third since March for Amgen, which has stepped up its dealmaking activity amid growing competition and declining sales for many of its top drugs.In doing so, the company has primarily focused on oncology, a business area viewed as crucial to Amgen’s future growth and headlined by the recently approved lung cancer drug Lumakras.

Dive Insight:

A year in which Amgen has made history by winning approval of the first cancer medicine to block the gene KRAS has also been one of consternation. First-quarter sales significantly missed analyst estimates as 12 of its top 20 products declined, a result of competition forcing the company to sell products at lower net prices or net volume. 

Wall Street analysts expect to be less surprised next quarter, as Amgen has uncharacteristically already issued revenue guidance. But the pressure has grown on Amgen, one of biotech’s top companies, to remake itself, an effort depending both on in-house programs like Lumakras and the asthma drug tezepelumab as well as through dealmaking. 

On the latter front, Amgen has picked up the pace. In just under five months, the company has acquired two privately held biotechs — Rodeo Therapeutics and Teneobio — and, in a rare move, a publicly traded one, Five Prime Therapeutics. Rodeo is developing drugs for inflammatory diseases. But the others are focused on cancer, an area Amgen has put significant resources into as it aims to challenge its more established peers.  

Five Prime, for example, has a gastric cancer drug that recently completed Phase 2 testing. Teneobio may help with a longer-running effort by Amgen to harness bispecific antibodies — drugs that simultaneously latch onto antigens on two different cells — to treat cancer. 

Amgen has had ups and downs with its own bispecific research. A bispecific antibody Blincyto is approved for a form of leukemia, but multiple other projects have either been delayed, stalled, or challenged by emerging competition. Teneobio will add more firepower to Amgen’s arsenal, giving it a prostate cancer drug in Phase 1 testing, a group of preclinical drugs and the potential to develop other types of antibodies. The biotech’s antibody discovery work is “differentiated, but complementary” to Amgen’s, the company said in a statement. 
Though privately held, Teneobio has amassed a lengthy list of partners including AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead’s Kite Pharma division and gene editing biotech Intellia Therapeutics. AbbVie last month acquired a Teneobio affiliate, TeneoOne, to get ahold of a multiple myeloma drug the two have been developing.

Teneobio spun out three more companies, each with individual programs, prior to closing its deal with Amgen.  

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