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Zymeworks, Celgene to Develop Double-Binding Antibodies

Currency dice (MD4 Group/Flickr)

(M4D Group/Flickr)

21 January 2015. Zymeworks Inc., a biotechnology company in Vancouver, Canada and pharmaceutical maker Celgene Inc. are developing biologic therapies using Zymeworks’ antibody technology. The deal makes Zymeworks eligible for up to $164 million from Celgene for each candidate developed under the partnership, as well as an unspecified initial payment and equity investment.

Under the agreement, Celgene, in Summit, New Jersey, and Zymeworks will design a series of therapies based on Zymeworks’ technology that creates engineered antibodies that bind to two targets or epitopes, the parts of antigens that generate an immune response. This design concept, says Zymeworks, enables its antibodies to address complex diseases that require more than one line of attack, as well as combining multiple treatments similar to a cocktail in one therapy. Despite the novel design, says the company, these bi-specific antibodies can be made with today’s monoclonal antibody processes.

Zymeworks has 9 candidate therapies in preclinical development for several types of solid tumor cancers, with 2 candidates for some types of breast and gastric cancer scheduled for new drug applications in 2016. The company also has a treatment for blood-related cancers scheduled for a 2016 new drug application. Celgene says it is taking part in some 300 clinical trials, including tests for a number of solid tumor and blood-related cancers.

The deal calls for Celgene and Zymeworks to jointly develop multiple bi-specific antibodies with the Zymeworks platform through preclinical stages. Celgene then will have the option of taking any of the candidates designed in the partnership through clinical trials and commercialization. Zymeworks will be eligible for up to $164 million in clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments for each candidate advanced by Celgene. Zymeworks also  receives an unspecified initial payment as well as an equity stake from Celgene.

In December 2014, Zymeworks and Merck announced an extension of their 2011 research collaboration that gives Merck expanded access to the Zymeworks technology. As in the Celgene partnership, Zymeworks and Merck are collaborating on preclinical development, while Merck has responsibility for clinical trials and commercialization.

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