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­Pfizer signs $635m deal with CytomX for cancer ADCs

Will use biotech's Probody technology to develop antibody-drug conjugates

Californian biotech CytomX Therapeutics scored a major licensing deal yesterday when Pfizer signed a $635m agreement to develop a series of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for cancer.

The pharma major is paying $25m in upfront, research reimbursement and preclinical milestone payments, with $610m in the offing if future regulatory and sales milestones are met, along with royalties on any eventual sales.

CytomX has developed an ADC platform called Probody that it says can create ADCs that are safer and more effective than current technologies.

The approach can be applied to just about any type of antibody - including traditional monoclonal antibodies, bi- multi-specific antibodies and ADCs - and involves adding a masking region to the binding region of the antibody that prevents it attaching to antigens on healthy tissue.

The mask is designed to be removed in the presence of an enzyme that is found only in diseased cells, says CytomX.

Under the terms of the alliance CytomX will apply its Probody technology to selected ADCs being developed at Pfizer, with the two companies working together on preclinical research. Pfizer will take over responsibility for developing and commercialising promising candidates.

ADCS are an emerging drug class created by linking a disease-targeting antibody to another compound, typically a cytotoxic, which enhances their activity.

The first ADC to reach the market was Pfizer acquisition Wyeth's Mylotarg (gemtuzumab ozogamicin) for acute myeloid leukaemia in 2000, but it took another 10 years before it was joined by Seattle Genetics' Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin) for Hodgkin's lymphoma and systemic anaplastic large-cell lymphoma.

Now momentum seems to be gathering in the category, particularly with the approval earlier this year of Roche's Kadcyla (ado-trastuzumab emtansine), a follow-up to blockbuster breast cancer treatment Herceptin (trastuzumab). Kadcyla is expected to make sales of up to $5bn a year at peak.

Pfizer recently suffered a setback in its ADC programme however when it discontinued a phase III trial of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma treatment inotuzumab ozogamicin after it failed to show a benefit on overall survival.

"Pfizer's investment in CytomX's emerging Probody platform is an important component of our overall strategic focus to advancing the next generation of ADCs and reflects the disruptive potential of this approach," commented Robert Abraham, chief scientific officer at the pharma company's oncology research unit.

7th June 2013

From: Research

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