The University of Victoria and BC Cancer Agency can be added to Big Pharma names Glaxo ($GSK) and Celgene ($CELG) after Vancouver-based Zymeworks signs a new research deal that focuses on cell engineering in cancer.
The Canadian biotech, which focuses primarily on bi-specific antibodies, has penned the R&D collab with the University of Victoria and the BC Cancer Agency to develop engineered cytokine and cytokine receptor pairs.
Under the deal Zymeworks, University of Victoria investigator Martin Boulanger, and University of Victoria/BC Cancer Agency investigator Brad Nelson, will work together to engineer variant forms of cytokine-receptor complexes to allow precise control of cellular signaling events.
These will be designed using Zymeworks’ ZymeCAD protein modeling and engineering technology, and further characterized at the University of Victoria and the BC Cancer Agency.
This builds on a spate of deals in the in-demand biotech has achieved over the past 18 months, which includes a potential $908 million deal with GSK struck back in April that sees the London Big Pharma gain access to its Azymetric bispecific drug platform, with similar deals set up with Celgene last year and Lilly ($LLY) in 2014, while also having a long-standing pact with Merck ($MRK).
The biotech can now add a major academic center to its list of Big Pharma partners.
The company is engaged on delivering bispecific antibodies--which have been attracting considerable interest among drug developers looking to engage two targets at once.
This latest project is focused on a new cell engineering strategy that aims to give precise and potent targeting of cancer cells by the immune system--and is ultimately designed to give docs new tools to achieve better control over the immune response to cancer.
“Zymeworks strongly believes in investing in academic collaborations to drive the development of new innovations,” said Dr. Ali Tehrani, president and CEO of Zymeworks.
“We are particularly excited to be working with Dr. Boulanger and Dr. Nelson given their deep expertise in biophysical protein characterization, cytokine signaling, and cell-based therapies.
“Our ZymeCAD technology is an ideal tool for designing novel cytokine and cytokine receptor pairs, and will allow us to build a platform for researching ways to control cellular signalling events. Ultimately, this will enable us to design more effective treatments in multiple therapeutic areas, including cell therapy for advanced cancers and stem cell transplantation.”
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