Abzena licenses PSMA antibodies to Telix to create cancer-targeting radioactive drugs

Abzena has licensed its prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) antibodies to Telix Pharmaceuticals. Telix has committed about $65 million (€56 million) in license fees and milestone payments in return for the exclusive right to use the antibodies to guide radioactive payloads to tumors.

The agreement grants Telix the exclusive worldwide rights to the Abzena antibodies in the field of radioimmunoconjugation: the splicing of radioactive molecules and immune substances. Attaching the PSMA-targeting antibodies to a radioactive payload such as lutetium-177 could enable Telix to deliver therapeutic doses to the prostate without affecting healthy tissues. 

This concept has attracted the interest of other researchers. Excel Diagnostics and Nuclear Oncology Center is currently trialing a PSMA-targeting lutetium-177 drug in the U.S. Multiple trials of similar combinations have published data in recent years. Telix already has PSMA-targeted lutetium-177 in its clinical-phase pipeline. And at least one clinic in Telix’s home country of Australia provides lutetium-177 PSMA therapy. Telix thinks it can improve on these earlier attempts to direct radiation at PSMA by working with Abzena. 

“We chose to work with Abzena because of its proven expertise in antibody engineering and conjugation,” Telix CEO Christian Behrenbruch, D.Phil., said in a statement. “Our mission is to build on existing clinical experience with PSMA antibody-directed radiation to create a product that can be manufactured effectively and with an optimized efficacy profile.”

Abzena will support Telix’s attempt to create such a product. The agreement includes a service component that positions Abzena to retain an active role in the development of its antibody and the drugs it enables on a contract basis. 

The deal marks the third time this year Telix has come to Europe to pen a deal to advance its radiopharmaceutical pipeline. In January, Telix disclosed the completion of a deal covering the aforementioned PSMA-targeted lutetium-177 prostate cancer candidate it worked on with France’s Atlab Pharma. And that same month it also acquired a glioblastoma asset from Germany’s Therapeia.