Ambrx taps WuXi for HER2-targeting cancer drug

WuXi PharmaTech CEO Ge Li

Thanks to some big-name deals over the past year, Ambrx could rake in nearly $1 billion in licensing for its antibody drug conjugates, but the company hasn't lost sight of its in-house development, now partnering with WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) and a Chinese drugmaker to advance a breast cancer treatment.

Under the deal, Ambrx and Zhejiang Medicine Co. (ZMC) will co-develop ARX788, an ADC-driven treatment that targets HER2-positive breast cancer, and WuXi will handle preclinical development, clinical trials and toxin manufacturing. Once ARX788 is ready to go, ZMC will hold commercial rights in China while Ambrx handles the rest of the world, recouping royalties on the Chinese pharma's sales.

For Ambrx, the benefit is two-fold: Tapping WuXi's expertise and ZMC's manufacturing capacity will ease R&D costs, and staging the development process in China will give it an early start on SFDA approval and speed its path into a fast-growing market, CEO Lawson Macartney said.

Ambrx's plan fits with what WuXi has been saying for years: For multinationals looking to make inroads to China, the best model for success is partnership with local expertise.

"Our collaboration with Ambrx and ZMC on ARX788 is another example of how WuXi's comprehensive, integrated, open-access R&D services platform enables our partners to develop innovative products efficiently and cost-effectively to benefit the world's patients," CEO Ge Li said in a statement. "We are very pleased to offer our partners integrated services at global standards ranging from toxins to antibodies, from CMC development to preclinical studies, from regulatory strategy to clinical trials."

Ambrx, a 2005 FierceBiotech Fierce 15 winner, has been racking up ADC deals in the wake of Kadcyla and Adcetris' success. Last month, the company signed a $15 million deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), following an agreement with Astellas that could be worth $300 million and a handshake with Merck ($MRK) that could bring in $303 million.

- read the announcement

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