Menarini has signed an €800m deal with Oxford BioTherapeutics to collaborate on the development of antibody-body based drugs for the treatment of several cancers.
The Italy-based pharma firm will lead the manufacturing and clinical development of five of Oxford's antibody and antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) programmes, each addressing a separate cancer indication.
Once clinical proof of concept has been achieved in each programme, Menarini would then develop and commercialise the products in Europe, CIS, Asia and Latin America, while Oxford would retain the rights in North America and Japan.
Heading up Oxford's efforts as part of the collaboration will be chief operating officer Dr Esteban Pombo-Villar, who left Novartis to join the UK-based company in May, 2012.
He was brought in to oversee the biotech's clinical development operations in Basel, Switzerland, where much of Oxford's work into antibodies is taking place.
Oxford's CEO Christian Rohlff was enthusiastic about the collaboration and what it means for the company's future.
“This creative alliance is transformational for us as it allows Oxford BioTherapeutics to participate in the clinical development and future commercialisation of our programmes while at the same time it bolsters Menarini's pipeline with a portfolio of the next generation of cancer drugs,” he said.
“We believe this innovative business framework could become the business model of choice for rapidly growing biotechnology companies seeking new ways to develop their drug pipeline effectively.”
ADCs, which comprise a cancer cell-targeting antibody that is attached to a cytotoxic drug via a linking technology, have been demonstrating promising results as a more targeted cancer therapy.
This promise has led to recent deals like that between Abbott and Seattle Genetics, which will see the partners extend their existing ADC agreement to cover several more cancers, with each programme worth up to $220m in milestone payments.
Leading the charge, however, is Roche's T-DM1, which has shown great potential in extending survival in patients with breast cancer during clinical trials and has been tipped as a future blockbuster.