Business & Tech

ImmunoGen strikes deal on cancer drug technology

Four years ago, ImmunoGen Inc. marked a significant achievement in the Waltham company’s history with the market debut of Kadcyla, a breast cancer drug that uses innovative biotechnology to target cancer while sparing healthy cells.

The Genentech division of Swiss drug giant Roche AG won approval from US and European regulators to sell Kadcyla, but the “payload platform” that enables the drug to bind to tumors was painstakingly developed over three decades by ImmunoGen.

Kadcyla now generates more than $800 million in annual revenue, according to ImmunoGen president and chief executive Mark Enyedy.

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On Tuesday, ImmunoGen announced its latest collaboration, with California-based Jazz Pharmaceuticals, to use the same technology — called antibody-drug conjugates — to treat acute myeloid leukemia and other cancers of the blood.

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Jazz plans to pay ImmunoGen $75 million upfront for rights to two early-stage ImmunoGen drugs being developed for those types of cancers. The deal also includes a third ImmunoGen drug program that will be determined later.

Jazz will pay ImmunoGen up to $100 million more in development funding over seven years to support the three drug research programs.

ImmunoGen’s stock price closed up more than 17 percent on the Nasdaq exchange Tuesday, to $7.58 a share, following the announcement of the deal.

Leaders of Jazz and ImmunoGen touted the mutual benefits of the partnership.

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“The two companies are highly complementary to each other,’’ said Enyedy, whose firm will be responsible for developing the three drug programs before Jazz decides whether to opt in.

Jazz’s drug portfolio already includes treatments for blood cancers. “What they don’t have is as deep a research arm as ImmunoGen,” Enyedy said.

The arrangement will give ImmunoGen an infusion of cash to help it develop payload platforms, as well as an alliance with a larger pharma partner that has access to global markets, he added.

ImmunoGen has about 300 employees and is not expected to add any more as a result of the deal.

Bruce Cozadd, chairman and chief executive of Jazz, which is incorporated in Ireland, said he is looking forward to working with ImmunoGen, as “new therapeutic options for cancer patients are urgently needed.”

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.