Genmab/GSK: An Impressive Display of Biotech's Increased Leverage
Cash-rich and product-poor pharmaceutical firms playing catch-up in large molecules have turned 2006 into a bumper year for dealmaking. Even so, Genmab AS's monster December deal with GSK for worldwide rights to the Phase III anti-CD20 antibody ofatumumab (HuMax-CD20), which includes a whopping $459 million in up-front cash and equity payments, seemed to catch analysts by surprise, beating even optimistic expectations
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What a difference a year makes. In October 2008, Genmab's leaders were being applauded for their prudent strategic review as they cut 101 staff and axed the development of Phase III HuMax-CD4 (zanulimumab) plus a handful of earlier-stage programs, to concentrate instead on the potentially far larger Arzerra (ofatumumab) and zalutumumab, a late-stage EGFR-inhibitor. But now management credibility is being questioned, following the Nov. 5 announcement of a further 300 headcount reduction, setbacks to both remaining key programs, plus the fire-sale of its U.S. manufacturing unit acquired only 18 months earlier
Genmab and partner GlaxoSmithKline reported August 17 disappointing top-line results from a Phase II study of their anti-CD 20 antibody Arzerra in rituximab-refractory follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, calling into question the biotech's future as an independent entity
Ofatumumab failed to live up to expectations in a Phase III NHL trial, meaning no milestone payment from partner GlaxoSmithKline and revised 2009 guidance.