South San Francisco's Sutro Biopharma Forges $375 Million Antibody Drug Pact With Merck KGaA

South San Francisco's Sutro Biopharma Forges $373 Million Antibody Drug Pact With Merck KGaA

September 17, 2014

By Krystle Vermes, Breaking News Staff

San Francisco-based Sutro Biopharma has teamed up with the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA in Germany on a $375 million initiative to develop antibody drug conjugates, the company said Wednesday.

ADCs are based on an antibody linked to a cytotoxic drug are thought to deliver the drug to cancer cells. Merck KGaA, based in Germany, is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company, founded in 1668. It generated total revenues of $11.1 billion in 2013.

The collaboration and license agreement will allow Merck KGaA to use Sutro’s technology in its oncology programs to develop ADCs for multiple targets. Both companies believe that ADCs could possibly target cancer cells while keeping healthy tissue safe.

Sutro Biopharma focuses on developing a new generation of antibody drug conjugate therapeutics and bifunctional antibody-based therapeutics for target cancer therapies. Sutro’s biochemical synthesis technology allows the rapid and systematic exploration of protein drug variants to identify drug candidates.

Merck KGaA’s said its knowledge on target biology will complement Sutro’s technological and discovery capabilities. Together, they hope to develop drug candidates that address the unmet needs of patients.

“This partnership will help us to advance our position as a leading drug discovery partner to renowned pharmaceutical companies like Merck in Darmstadt, Germany," said William J. Newell, chief executive officer of Sutro. "Our technology has been developed to allow loading of an antibody with multiple different agents and to enable a potential higher uptake of the drug in the tumor cell through improved stability of the ADC."

Merck KGaA will make an upfront payment to Sutro and fund research and development projects. Sutro may also receive payments in according to the completion of research, development and regulatory milestones.

Sutro will be responsible for delivering ADCs in Phase 1 clinical trials, while Merck KGaA will need to monitor the clinical development and commercialization that follows.

"We continue to explore opportunities that will allow us to better understand the potential ADCs have in directly targeting cancer cells," said Andree Blaukat, senior vice president and head of translational innovation platform oncology at Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck. "This collaboration with Sutro isreflective of our ongoing commitment to advancing innovation that may provide new therapies for patients."

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