Amgen buying Five Prime in $1.9bn antibody pipeline booster

Amgen says it will leverage its biologics process development and manufacturing proficiency to bring Five Prime Therapeutics’ gastric cancer antibody bemarituzumab to market.

The deal announced yesterday and expected to go through before July sees Amgen bag South San Francisco-based biotech Five Prime Therapeutics for about $1.9 billion in cash.

Five Prime’s lead candidate is bemarituzumab, a monoclonal antibody designed to block tumor growth in patients with tumors that overexpress FGFR2b. The company is studying the drug in partnership with Zai Lab trial in combination with chemotherapy in patients with gastric cancer.

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“The lead asset of Five Prime is bema, first-in-class, Phase III-ready therapy with positive Phase II data in first line gastric cancer, the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world today and offers us a mid to long-term volume growth opportunity,” Peter Griffith, Amgen’s CFO, said at the Cowen 41st Annual Healthcare Conference yesterday.

“It strengthens our innovative oncology portfolio and is complementary with our gastric cancer programs. It advances our efforts to grow our business internationally and in Asia-Pacific in particular, where gastric cancer is highly prevalent, where we expect to generate about 25% of our total company sales growth over the next 10 years.”

The acquisition demonstrates a full turnaround for Five Prime. Two years ago, the company cut jobs and was forced to restructure after disappointing results in a trial of anti-CSF-1R candidate cabiralizumab, being investigated with partner Bristol-Myers Squibb. The firm also eliminated most of its in-house target discovery and validation and protein therapeutic generation and engineering capabilities during the restructure, redirecting its focus into bemarituzumab and its other clinical antibodies.

Looking ahead, Griffin said: “We will leverage our industry leading biologics and process development and manufacturing expertise to develop and commercialize this product for patients all over. We expect the deal to close by the end of the second quarter 2021 and look forward to advancing this important new medicine into Phase III as quickly as possible.”

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