ADC Space Continues to Thrive with Four More Companies Linking Up

Tumor microenvironment

As antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) continue to show their potential, four more biopharma companies entered into partnerships this week to combine their respective expertise. 

California-based Exelixis, Inc. and Swedish company BioInvent International AB, announced Thursday that they have entered into an option and license agreement to discover and develop novel antibodies for immuno-oncology therapeutics.

The partnership will combine Exelixis’ expertise and experience in antibody engineering and other ADC-related technologies, with BioInvent’s proprietary n-CoDeR antibody library and F.I.R.S.T screening platform, which can be used in parallel to discover both antibodies and druggable targets. In so doing, Exelixis seeks to expand its current portfolio of antibody-based therapies for difficult-to-treat cancers.

BioInvent is entitled to an upfront payment of $25 million from Exelixis under the terms of the agreement. This amount is in exchange for the right to choose three targets identified using BioInvent’s technologies. The partnership also provides Exelixis with the ability to license any target program as soon as a development candidate is identified. In turn, licensing again entitles BioInvent to payment, after which Exelixis will assume responsibility for all future development and commercialization activities for the chosen development candidate. BioInvent is also eligible for development and commercialization milestones, as well as tiered royalties.

“Exelixis has a demonstrated track record of success in both commercializing important new oncology medicines and establishing highly productive collaborations that integrate diverse and complementary skill sets and technologies - such as toxin and cytokine conjugation of monoclonal antibodies for ADC and bispecific monoclonal antibody technologies - to enable the identification and development of innovative therapies with significant clinical and commercial potential,” Martin Welschof, chief executive officer of BioInvent said. “We believe that our cancer immunology expertise and discovery platform will support Exelixis’ mission to expand its biologics pipeline, and we very much look forward to working together.”

Preceding this deal, clinical-stage biotechnology company ImmunoGen Inc. announced Monday that it was entering into a multi-year research partnership with U.K.-based Oxford BioTherapeutics. This alliance will combine the companies’ respective expertise and technologies to develop novel, first-in-class antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) for cancers with high unmet needs.

Under the collaboration, Oxford will use its proprietary OGAP discovery platform to identify unique druggable targets, for which antibodies can then be developed. ImmunoGen, on its end, will contribute its extensive portfolio of linkers and camptothecin toxins. Through this, the partnership is expected to yield a healthy array of ADCs that can specifically and accurately deliver an anti-cancer payload to a designated tumor.

As part of the agreement, ImmunoGen will make an upfront payment to OBT for the latter’s preclinical programs that will be used in the research collaboration. Each company will also be able to select a number of the resulting ADCs to develop internally. Both partners will still be entitled to milestone payments based on pre-specified development and regulatory milestones, as well as tiered royalties, from the agents selected by the other company.

"OBT has demonstrated expertise in identifying novel targets for the development of specific antibodies - two key components to generating successful ADCs," Stacy Coen, senior vice president and chief business officer of ImmunoGen said in a statement. "This expertise, combined with ImmunoGen's portfolio of cancer-killing payloads and linkers, will be instrumental as both companies work to develop novel ADCs designed to address cancers with high unmet need.”

Coen added, “We look forward to working with OBT as we expand and diversify our investment in ADC research capabilities, deepen our pipeline, and transition to a fully-integrated oncology company."

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