Shanghai Miracogen taps Synaffix's antibody-drug conjugate tech in a deal worth up to $125M

Cancer-focused Shanghai Miracogen is looking to boost its pipeline by adding Synaffix’s tools for building antibody-drug conjugates to its arsenal. In a deal that could be worth $125 million, Miracogen is licensing two platforms to bring its next candidate into the clinic. 

It is the next step in the duo’s relationship—Shanghai Miracogen and The Netherlands-based Synaffix previously inked a research pact for a “specific drug candidate.” Now, it’s ready to move that candidate into the clinic and is licensing Synaffix’s conjugation and spacer technology to do it. Synaffix stands to earn a total of $125 million in upfront and milestone fees. 

The first, known as GlycoConnect, links the antibody and drug components that make up an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC), while the latter, dubbed HydraSpace, can be used to improve the properties of an ADC. For example, Synaffix believes the HydraSpace system can make the drug components more soluble, allow more drug molecules to be loaded on the antibody and make the whole ADC more stable. 

“As we transition into the development phase together, this license agreement with Miracogen provides additional validation of our GlycoConnect and HydraSpace technologies,” said Synaffix CEO Peter van de Sande, in a statement. 

“There is a clear trend in China towards developing innovative products and as such, ADCs have emerged as a strong area of growth within the field of oncology. Our proprietary technologies can address the current unmet need for clinical candidates with an enhanced therapeutic index, thereby driving further growth of our activities in China and other markets,” he said. 

Attaching drugs to antibodies came about as a method to deliver cell-killing drugs to cancerous tissue while limiting their exposure to healthy tissue. Despite great interest and hundreds of clinical trials, few ADCs have reached the market, including Pfizer’s Mylotarg, recently re-introduced in 2017 for acute myeloid leukemia, Seattle Genetics/Takeda’s Hodgkin lymphoma therapy Adcetris and Roche’s Kadcyla for breast cancer. More recently, the FDA has approved two CD20-targeting ADCs: Pfizer’s Besponsa for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and AstraZeneca’s Lumoxiti for hairy cell leukemia, a relatively rare blood cancer. 

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It’s the complexity of ADCs that has hindered their path to market; there are various issues that can impact safety, such as the stability of the ADC, the selectivity of the chosen antibody and the efficiency with which the cell-killing payload is taken up into cells. Synaffix has created its ADC-building platforms to address these concerns and has licensed it out to other companies, too. 

ADC Therapeutics has used GlycoConnect in two assets for solid tumors, bringing one of them, ADC-601, into phase 1 in January. That same month, Mersana Therapeutics licensed the technology for the development of one ADC candidate, with the option to expand the deal to other programs. All told, Synaffix could pick up a total of $295 million in upfront and milestone payments under the arrangements with Mersana.