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Our Take: AbbVie to acquire ImmunoGen for $10 billion, adding ADC for ovarian cancer to its portfolio

Dec 04, 2023

AbbVie announced on Thursday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Waltham, Mass.-based biotech ImmunoGen for approximately $10.1 billion.

If the deal is completed, AbbVie will gain Elahere (mirvetuximab soravtansine-gynx), a first-in-class antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) that received accelerated approval from the FDA in 2022 as a treatment for platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, as well as several other next-generation ADCs in ImmunoGen’s pipeline. 

“The acquisition of ImmunoGen demonstrates our commitment to deliver on our long-term growth strategy and enables AbbVie to further diversify our oncology pipeline across solid tumors and hematologic malignancies,” said Richard Gonzalez, AbbVie’s CEO. 

“The addition of ImmunoGen’s pipeline, platform, and expertise to AbbVie’s oncology portfolio is an exciting opportunity for the combined companies to advance innovation in ADCs,” said Mark Enyedy, CEO of ImmunoGen. “This transaction is the culmination of our 40-year commitment to develop and deliver the next-generation of ADCs and more good days for people living with cancer.”

Other assets AbbVie will gain through the acquisition include a Phase I ADC for ovarian cancer that has “potential for expansion into other solid tumor indications” and pivekimab sunirine, a Phase II ADC being developed as a possible treatment for a rare type of blood cancer. 

Both companies’ boards have approved the acquisition, which is expected to close in mid-2024 if the necessary regulatory and shareholder approvals are obtained and other customer closing conditions are met. 

The per-share price AbbVie agreed to pay is $31.26, which is to be paid in cash.  

Our Take: ADCs are a red-hot ticket in oncology these days due, in part, to advances in technology that have resulted in more powerful ADCs with varied payloads, including nonchemotherapeutic payloads such as immune-stimulating agents. Some are successfully treating highly treatment-refractory cancers.

AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Gilead Sciences, GSK, and Merck have all invested substantial sums to acquire ADC candidates — and in some cases, the company that’s developing them. 

Pfizer’s betting big on them, too, dishing out $43 billion to acquire Seagen and its proprietary ADC technology. Pfizer will gain three FDA-approved ADCs that are first- or best-in-class in their indications in the Seagen deal. 

As FiercePharma recently pointed out, AbbVie recognized the opportunities ADCs represented more than a decade ago, when it was still part of Abbott. The company paid $8 million to Seagen, then called Seattle Genetics, for the use of its ADC technology on a single cancer target.

Five years later, in 2016, AbbVie made a much larger investment, spending nearly $6 billion up front to acquire Stemcentrx and its rovalpituzumab tesirine, or Rova-T. Unfortunately, the promising early-stage results didn’t carry over into mid-stage testing, and AbbVie terminated the clinical development program a few years later. 

AbbVie is taking a safer route this time. ImmunoGen has 40 years of experience in the ADC arena, and the company’s lead drug, Elahere, already has accelerated approval. Earlier this year, a confirmatory trial provided “remarkable” results, according to ImmunoGen’s chief medical officer, Anna Berkenblit, so converting Elahere’s accelerated approval to a full approval is virtually assured. 

AbbVie is also developing a first-in-class ADC candidate of its own — telisotuzumab-vedotin, or Teliso-V — as a treatment for patients with previously treated non-small cell lung cancer. 

Last week, the company released positive top-line results from a Phase II trial of Teliso-V, and a Phase III trial of the drug is underway. Based on mid-stage results, AbbVie said it would “discuss with global health authorities the potential to support an accelerated approval.” 

What else you need to know
Cigna and Humana are discussing a possible merger, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the matter. The Journal noted that a potential stock-and-cash deal could be finalized by year-end. Such a deal could be valued at more than $60 billion, according to Reuters. Last month Reuters reported that Cigna was exploring options to sell its Medicare Advantage business, which would assist in addressing antitrust concerns that might arise in a proposed merger with Humana, the second-largest MA insurer by enrollment. (UnitedHealthcare is the largest.) Nonetheless, a merger between the two colossal insurers would undoubtedly still face intense regulatory scrutiny. Neither Cigna nor Humana have confirmed the merger discussions.

Fairview Health Services told the University of Minnesota it would not renew the contract between the two organizations in its current form. Their affiliation, known as M Health Fairview, began in 2018 and remains in effect until the end of 2026. The contract would have automatically renewed for a decade, starting in 2027, if neither partner opposed the renewal before the end of this year. Fairview said the  financial terms of the current contract are unsustainable but said the organizations would continue their ongoing efforts to negotiate a new agreement. In addition to Fairview Health Services and the university, M Health Fairview includes a physician group, University of Minnesota Physicians, which owns and operates specialty and family medicine clinics. The university’s medical school trains approximately 70% of Michigan’s physician workforce, the Star Tribune reported, noting that the M Health Fairview partnership is “pivotal” to the medical school.

Tenet Healthcare will sell three hospitals to Novant Health for about $2.4 billion. The two health systems, based in Dallas and Winston-Salem, N.C., respectively, signed a definitive agreement under which Novant will acquire the hospitals, all located in South Carolina, as well as affiliated physician practices and other related hospital operations. Conifer Health Solutions, a financial services subsidiary of Tenet, will enter into an expanded 15-year contract to provide the hospitals with revenue cycle management services. Ambulatory facilities in the local markets that are run by United Surgical Partners International (USPI), also a Tenet subsidiary, will remain with Tenet, and USPI will enhance its ambulatory surgery partnership with Novant. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year if regulatory approvals are obtained and customary closing conditions are met.

Two behavioral health organizations in Colorado will combine to form the state’s largest behavioral health provider. WellPower, based in Denver, will merge with Wheat Ridge, Colo.-based Jefferson Center. The combined organization will retain the WellPower name, though the merger will be pursued under the Jefferson Center 501c3 organization, according to the announcement. Kiara Kuenzler, Jefferson Center’s CEO and president, will serve as president of the combined entity. Dr. Carl Clark, president and CEO of WellPower, will stay on as CEO until he retires — at which time Kuenzler will take on the additional role of CEO. The merger is expected to close on July 1, 2024. 

Mayo Clinic has revealed more details of the planned $5 billion redesign of its main campus in Rochester, Minn. Five new buildings will feature a flexible grid design — a first for a health care facility, according to Mayo Clinic’s press release. The design will make it possible to shift specific spaces or even entire floors as needs change. For instance, a patient room could be shifted to an operating room or a diagnostic imaging suite. The redesign will also focus on creating “unified care neighborhoods” — where everything a patient needs is near each other, including labs, imaging, consultations, and treatments — to facilitate continuous care and “challenge traditionally separate concepts of inpatient and outpatient care.” Mayo Clinic anticipates the redesign will take six years to complete.

The FDA issued a final rule that sets standards for the way drug companies are to present risk information in direct-to-consumer TV and radio ads. The standards will be used to determine whether the “major statement” of a prescription drug’s side effects and contraindications is presented “in a clear, conspicuous, and neutral manner.” Basically, the risk information must be presented in consumer-friendly language and use terminology that is readily understandable, and the audio should have the same volume and pacing throughout the ad. In TV ads, the information is to be presented in text and audio concurrently. The final rule goes into effect on May 20. 

Executive moves
Dr. Brendan Carr will become CEO of Mount Sinai Health System early next year, and Dr. Kenneth Davis, who has been CEO of the New York City-based health system and its predecessor since 2003, will become executive vice chairman of the Mount Sinai boards of trustees at that time, according to the announcement. Dr. Carr, who joined Mount Sinai Health System as head of the emergency medicine department in February 2020, is currently chair of emergency medicine at the health system and its Icahn School of Medicine. 

Dr. Timothy Dellit has been named CEO of UW Medicine, endowed dean of the University of Washington School of Medicine, and executive vice president for medical affairs at the university. He has served in these roles on an interim basis since mid-2022, UW noted in a news release. Board-certified in infectious diseases and internal medicine, Dr. Dellit has held various leadership positions at the health system and medical school in the last two decades, including chief medical officer at UW Medicine and president of UW Physicians. 

Mark Rich has been promoted to the role of president at Steward Health Care System and has been named to Steward Health’s board of directors. Rich has been with the Dallas-based health system since 2010 and has served “in virtually all major operating roles in his 14-year career with the company,” according to a press release. As president, he reports to Chairman and CEO Ralph de la Torre.

What we’re reading 
AI Alone Will Not Reduce the Administrative Burden of Health Care. JAMA, 11.16.23

Arriving At A Fair Price In The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program: Considerations From Other Countries. Health Affairs, 11.28.23

Juggling Two Full-Time Jobs — Methadone Clinic Engagement and Cancer Care. NEJM, 11.30.23 (subscription or registration required)

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