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Merck expands partnership with Zymeworks for multispecific antibodies

New licence agreement builds on existing collaboration

Merck

Merck has signed a new licensing deal with Canadian biotech company Zymeworks for the development of multispecific antibody candidates, building on their existing collaboration.

The new license agreement grants Merck the right to develop additional multispecific antibody candidates using Zymework’s Azymetric and EFECT platforms. Under the terms of the deal, Zymeworks will provide Merck a worldwide, royalty-bearing licence to research, develop and commercialise up to three new multispecific antibodies.

In return, Zymeworks is set to receive an undisclosed upfront payment, and if each of the three programmes yield an approved product, the biotech could get up to $411m in option exercise fees, clinical development and regulatory approval milestone payments. A further $480m will be provided based on commercial milestone targets, as well as tiered royalties on worldwide sales.

Zymework’s Azymetric platform enables the transformation of monospecific antibodies into bispecific and multispecific antibodies, which allows for simultaneous binding to several different disease targets. This help to develop treatments that can block multiple signalling pathways indicated in a range of conditions.

The EFECT library consists of antibody Fc modifications that are engineered to activate or suppress the antibody-mediated immune response. They are also compatible with both monoclonal and subspecific antibodies.

Merck and Zymeworks began working together almost a decade ago on the development of bispecific antibodies, and further expanded that collaboration in 2014.

Zymeworks’ lead candidate, a bispecific antibody engineered using its Azymetric technology Zanidatamab, is currently in phase 2 clinical development. It is designed to target the HER2 protein, and is being tested as a treatment for biliary tract cancer, breast cancer and other HER2 expressing cancer types.

Its second clinical candidate, a bispecific antibody drug conjugate, ZW49, is in phase 1 clinical development, also as a treatment for HER2 expressing cancers.

Aside from Merck, Zymeworks has inked deals with a number of major pharma companies, including Eli Lilly, Celgene, GlaxoSmithKline and Daiichi Sankyo. Chinese pharma BeiGene also owns the rights to Zanidatamab and ZW49 in a number of East Asian countries including China and South Korea as well as Australia and New Zealand.

“It is an exciting time for the field of bispecific and multispecific therapeutics with candidates like ZW25 demonstrating great promise in clinical trials,” said Ali Tehrani, president and chief executive officer of Zymeworks.

“We are very proud that oncology leaders like Merck recognise the value of our therapeutic platforms and continue to return for expanded access to our technology. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Merck as it advances additional multispecific candidates towards the clinic,” he added.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

10th July 2020

From: Research

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