Daiichi picks immuno-oncology bispecific, triggering payout to Zymeworks 

Zymeworks is eligible to receive up to $143.4 million more in clinical and commercial milestones. (Zymeworks)

Daiichi Sankyo has selected the first immuno-oncology candidate under its deal with Zymeworks. The action sees Daiichi pay Zymeworks $3.5 million to license an asset based on its bispecific antibody platform.

Zymeworks granted Daiichi access to its Azymetric platform for generating bispecific antibodies in 2016 before expanding the agreement last year to bring the total potential value of the deal up to $484.7 million. The expanded deal gave Daiichi the right to use Azymetric, plus another platform, in the development of three bispecific antibodies.

Daiichi has now selected the first of those antibodies, triggering a $3.5 million milestone payment to Zymeworks. Following the payout, Zymeworks is eligible to receive up to $143.4 million more in clinical and commercial milestones under the terms of the original, one-asset deal signed in 2016.

Neither party has shared details of the drug or its targets. But Daiichi has shed a little light on the the effects it is interested in achieving through the use of the bispecific platform. 

“Our partnership with Zymeworks has allowed us to develop therapeutic candidates based on complex mechanisms of action such as immune cell engagement. Through this partnership, we have identified a novel bispecific therapeutic that we are excited to be advancing towards the clinic,” Daiichi Executive Vice President Antoine Yver said in a statement.

Immune cell engagement is the driving force behind much of the early interest in bispecifics, from Amgen’s pioneering Blincyto through to the experimental candidates threatening to usurp CAR-Ts by combining significant efficacy with simpler logistics and lower costs. 
Zymeworks’ platforms have proven a hit among major drug development shops, leading to deals with Celgene, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Merck, among others. Partnering with Zymeworks has given the drug developers access to a platform that relies on amino acid changes to create bispecifics designed to retain the druglike properties and relatively simple manufacturing processes associated with standard antibodies.