AbbVie has become the latest drugmaker to try its hand at developing a drug for the blood cancer multiple myeloma that targets a well-known antigen of the disease.

The Chicago-based pharma giant said Monday that it had signed a partnering agreement with Menlo Park, California-based Teneobio to develop TNB-383B through Phase I clinical testing. The deal includes an upfront payment of $90 million that AbbVie will pay to TeneoOne, an affiliate of Teneobio, as well as an exclusive right for AbbVie to acquire TeneoOne and lead subsequent global development and commercialization of the drug.

TNB-383B is a bispecific monoclonal antibody that targets BCMA, an antigen widely expressed in multiple myeloma. “Multiple myeloma is one of the most common hematological cancers and an area of significant medical need,” AbbVie vice president and head of oncology early development Mohit Trikha said in a statement. “Teneobio’s novel approach to T-cell redirection with TNB383B has the potential to be a treatment option that may offer new hope for myeloma patients.”

Nevertheless, as a BCMA-targeting agent, TNB-383B is entering an already crowded field. According to Teneobio’s website, the company’s heavy-chain antibody platform, “UniRat,” is based around next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics.

For example, bluebird bio’s bb2121 – being developed by Celgene, which Bristol-Myers Squibb acquired last month – is a CAR-T that targets BCMA and is in a registration-directed clinical trial. Amgen has a bispecific antibody targeting BCMA as well, AMG 420. Although in Phase I development, AMG 420 was developed using Amgen’s BiTE platform, which was also used to develop what remains the only Food and Drug Administration-approved bispecific antibody, the CD19-targeting Blincyto (blinatumomab). Data presented at the 2018 American Society of Hematology’s 2018 annual meeting showed that four patients treated at the 400-milligram dose achieved minimal residual disease-negative complete responses, meaning no cancer cells detected in the bone marrow.

Celgene has its own BCMA programs, including a bispecific antibody, an antibody-drug conjugate and a CAR-T that was under development by Juno Therapeutics, which it acquired last year.

Photo: mediaphotos, Getty Images

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