Perennial dealmaker Zymeworks licenses new drug discovery platform

Canadian bispecific biotech Zymeworks has been the subject of a series of deals over the past year for its drug platform but today has signed its own licensing deal--this time with Innovative Targeting Solutions (ITS).

Under the deal, exact financial details of which were not made public by either party, Zymeworks will pay an undisclosed tech licensing fee to get hold of ITS’s HuTARG drug discovery platform.

There was a little color on the money side, with the companies saying in a statement that ITS will receive up to $65 million in clinical and commercial milestones and low, single-digit royalties on net sales of any meds they manage to make and market.

HuTARG works as a protein engineering platform and is, according to ITS, the first fully mammalian tech that generates antibody diversity in vitro via RAG1/RAG2 mediated V(D)J recombination.

This, it says, helps it create “highly potent protein-based biologics.” Further explanation and therapy area targets were also not disclosed, although Zymeworks said its use of HuTARG would be “directed towards challenging disease targets.”

Ali Tehrani, president and CEO of Zymeworks, said: “We view the HuTARG platform as a leading technology for the discovery and generation of therapeutic antibodies. This further strengthens our in-house antibody discovery capabilities and accelerates the development of Zymeworks’ novel bi-specific and multi-functional biologics and drug conjugates.”

Michael Gallo, president of Innovative Targeting Solutions, added: “Zymeworks is a leader in the development of innovative biotherapeutics. Together with our first-in-class protein engineering technology, they will be able to discover novel medicines that can transform the lives of people with grievous illnesses.”

Zymeworks has enjoyed 2016, having at the start of the year bagged a $61.5 million mezzanine round with an eye to following up with an IPO. It already has deals with the Big Pharma likes of Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Celgene ($CELG), as well as with Merck ($MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK).

In fact, back in April GSK doubled down on its existing deal with the Canadian biotech on a research deal that could be worth just shy of $1 billion, if everything goes well.

Most of Big Pharma’s interest has revolved around its Azymetric bispecific drug platform. This bispecific approach doubles up on a drug’s potential target, offering a complementary approach to its Efect platform, a library of antibody Fc modifications that can be used to orchestrate an immune response--either turning it up or tamping it down.

By adding the HuTARG platform to its arsenal, the biotech will hope to expand its attractiveness for further deals and complement its existing drug discovery IP.   

- check out the release

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