Zymeworks and Daiichi Sankyo Strike Second Licensing Agreement for Bispecific Antibody Platforms


Two years after entering into a licensing relationship Canada-based Zymeworks Inc. and Japanese pharma giant Daiichi Sankyo have entered into a second licensing agreement to expand immuno-oncology research with bispecific antibodies.

Under terms of the new deal, Daiichi Sankyo will license Zymeworks’ Azymetric and EFECT technology platforms to develop two additional bispecific antibody therapeutics. The Azymetric platform enables the transformation of monospecific antibodies into bispecific antibodies, giving them the ability to simultaneously bind two different targets. Additionally, Zymeworks said the Azymetric bispecific technology enables the development of multifunctional biotherapeutics that can block multiple signaling pathways, recruit immune cells to tumors, enhance receptor clustering and degradation, and increase tumor-specific targeting.

The EFECT platform is a library of antibody Fc modifications engineered to modulate the activity of the antibody-mediated immune response, which includes both the up- and down-regulation of effector functions. This platform is compatible with traditional monoclonal as well as Azymetric bispecific antibodies. The EFECT platform also enables the customization of therapeutic responses for different diseases, according to company data.

Daiichi Sankyo expects this new relationship to add at least two bispecific antibodies to its pipeline, Antoine Yver, Global Head of Oncology Research and Development at Daiichi Sankyo said in a statement.

Ali Tehrani, president and chief executive officer of Zymeworks, said the second deal with Daiichi Sankyo “underscores the power, versatility, and attractiveness of our technology platforms.” The first licensing deal struck in 2016 was for one bispecific antibody.

“Having already used our platforms to discover one bispecific antibody, Daiichi Sankyo now has increased access to our technology to create additional therapeutic candidates. We are pleased to be working with a healthcare pioneer with a proven track record of over 100 years of innovation leading to major breakthroughs in patient care,” Tehrani said in a statement.

In July 2017 the two companies achieved their first milestone for an undisclosed immuno-oncology bispecific antibody therapeutic candidate. That milestone netted Zymeworks an additional $1 million. With the newly struck licensing deal, Zymeworks stands to gain greater financial rewards. Daiichi Sankyo handed over $18 million in upfront monies and the Canadian company stands to receive up to $466.7 million in potential clinical, regulatory and commercial milestone payments.

Daiichi Sankyo is not the only big company that Zymeworks has struck deals with. In November 2017 Zymeworks and Janssen Biotech struck an agreement that is potentially worth up to $1.4 billion to develop six bispecific antibodies. Janssen is also using the Azymetric and EFECT platforms to develop bispecific antibodies for undeclared targets.

Zymeworks also has a collaborative deal with Merck, Eli Lilly, Celgene and GlaxoSmithKline.   Those partnerships are also beginning to yield fruit. In September 2017 Merck announced it was advancing a bispecific drug candidate into preclinical development. Just a few months prior, in June, Eli Lilly said it was moving two bispecific immuno-oncology drug candidates from its partnership with Zymeworks into preclinical development.

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