BioNTech pays $25M upfront to strengthen ADC bond with China's MediLink

After penning a couple of antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) deals in 2023, BioNTech has returned to MediLink Therapeutics to further pad out its portfolio.

This time, BioNTech is handing over $25 million upfront for the chance to apply MediLink’s solid-tumor-focused TMALIN ADC platform to several undisclosed targets selected by the German biotech. Suzhou, China-based MediLink will also be in line for up to $1.8 billion in milestones.

The deal terms mean MediLink retains the right of first negotiation should BioNTech want to collaborate in China on any of the resulting ADC candidates, MediLink explained in a May 26 release.

The latest agreement marks an expansion of the collaboration between the two companies penned in October 2023. That deal saw BioNTech pay $70 million upfront for the rights to a HER3-directed ADC. MediLink began testing that candidate in non-small cell lung cancer and breast cancer late in 2022, building on preclinical evidence that the ADC delivers its cytotoxic payload to tumor cells that express HER3 without causing significant toxicity to healthy tissues. 

There were $1 billion in biobucks tied to that original deal, but how much BioNTech ends up paying out depends to an extent on whether HER3 lives up to expectations that it could be the next major ADC target. Interest in HER3 is built on evidence that the receptor is involved in cancers of the lung and breast, but validation of the target is ongoing. 

MediLink is not the only China-based ADC partner that BioNTech has signed on with since it identified the modality as one avenue to spend its COVID-19 billions. The German biotech, which is best known for its mRNA platform, also paid $170 million upfront in April 2023 for the rights to two ADCs in development at Duality Biologics.

For MediLink's part, BioNTech isn’t the only European drug developer to have shown an interest in its tech. Roche kicked off the year penning a more than $1 billion biobucks deal for the Chinese company’s ADC candidate targeting c-Mesenchymal epithelial transition factor (c-Met) under development for solid tumors.