Genentech (RHHBY) has partnered with several pharmaceutical companies, including AbbVie (ABBV), Clovis Oncology (CLVS) and Immune Design Corp. (IMDZ), as it ramps up its oncology pipeline.

On Wednesday, Genentech and its partner AbbVie announced its promising experimental leukemia drug Venetoclax yielded a positive result in reducing the number of cancer cells in patients with previously treated (relapsed or refractory) chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the companies announced.

Venetoclax, a small molecule inhibitor of the BCL-2 protein, is designed to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients harboring the 17p deletion, which represents 30 to 50 percent of people with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia. But in addition to the positive results of Venetoclax, Genentech also announced two additional deals to bolster its oncology pipeline.

Genentech and Clovis struck a deal to test a lung cancer dual combo therapy that utilizes Clovis’ investigational oral medication rociletinib and Genentech’s investigational injectable atezolizumab, BioPharma Dive reported.

Rociletnib is an EGFR inhibitor, which has won breakthrough designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Like rociletnib, atezolizumab has also won Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the FDA. Atezolizumab is a monoclonal antibody that interferes with a protein called PD-L1.

Anti-PD-L1 is the hot new area in cancer drug research. In June, Amgen (AMGN) announced a collaboration with Roche (RHHBY) on a Phase Ib clinical trial to evaluate talimogene laherparepvec combined with atezolizumab (MPDL3280AA) for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer and colorectal cancer with liver metastases.

The PD-1 field is currently dominated by Merck’s breakout drug, Keytruda and Opdivo, Bristol-Myers drug. Keytruda, also known as pembrolizumab, is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between the protein PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. By binding to the PD-1 receptor and blocking the interaction with the receptor ligands, Keytruda releases the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response, including the anti-tumor immune response. Keytruda clinical trials have shown the drug is effective against three different kinds of cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Atezolizumab is also being paired with Immune Design’s experimental cancer immunotherapy, CMB-305. The combination drug will be tested in a Phase II trial in patients with soft tissue sarcoma, the San Francisco Business Times reported.

Terms for both the Clovis and Immune Design Deal were not disclosed, the Times noted.

Partnering with other companies is a strategic plan for Genentech, a division of Swiss-based Roche. Roche manages about 150 partnerships, and more than one-third of its total drug sales are generated from partnered products, the Times said. Roche signed 55 new agreements last year alone.


August 13, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff