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Roche signs $1bn-plus cancer deal with Molecular Partners

Partnership could create new type of drug conjugate similar to ADCs
Roche Basel Switzerland

Roche has agreed a possible billion dollar-plus deal with Molecular Partners that could see the development of a new class of cancer therapy.

Under the terms of the agreement, Roche would combine Molecular Partners' DARPins -small proteins, which can act like antibodies and bind to cellular targets, with its own therapeutic compounds to create a new type of drug conjugate.

Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are starting to emerge as a major new force in cancer therapy, but DARPin-based conjugates - which are smaller molecules - could offer key advantages including greater selectivity for malignant cells and the ability to penetrate deeper into tumours.

Under the terms of the deal, the two pharma companies will collaborate on several proprietary cancer therapeutics, with Roche gaining rights to develop and commercialise the candidates.

In return, Molecular Partners gets upfront payments of up to 55m Swiss francs ($61m), plus milestones and funding that could reach 1bn Swiss francs over the course of the collaboration, along with tiered royalties on sales that could reach double-digits.

Sylke Poehling, head of Large Molecule Research at Roche, said in a statement that "in the field of drug conjugates, we have identified an excellent opportunity to combine our expertise with the leading company in non-antibody scaffold technology to develop transformative cancer medicines".

Roche is already making strides onto the ADC sector with breast cancer therapy Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine), which has made a good start in the US market since it was approved there in February and was cleared in the EU last month.

Kadcyla combines the monoclonal antibody in Roche's blockbuster Herceptin (trastuzumab) with ImmunoGen's DM1, a cytotoxic payload designed to boost its ability to kill tumour cells.

Other licensees for Molecular Partners' DARPin technology include Johnson & Johnson, which is focusing on immunological disorders, and Allergan, which is developing an anti-VEGF candidate called AGN-150998 for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness.

Last month, Allergan reported somewhat disappointing data in a phase II trial of the drug in the wet form of AMD, failing to show to show a significant effect on the time to re-treatment and with signs that inflammation in the eye could be worse than with rival treatment Lucentis (ranibizumab) from Roche.

The company is reported to be looking at the manufacturing process for AGN-150998 to see if its can improve the tolerability of the formulation.

Article by
Phil Taylor

5th December 2013

From: Research

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