East meets West in new therapeutics quest

Partners launch multitarget development alliance worth up to $310M

Lori Lesko
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CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—Avacta Group, the developer of Affimer biotherapeutics, and LG Chem Life Sciences, a division of the South Korean LG Group, have kicked off a joint multitarget development agreement worth up to $310 million—one that will provide LG Chem with the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize worldwide multiple Affimer therapeutics targeted toward inflammatory disorders and oncology.
“I am delighted to be entering into this therapeutic development partnership with LG Chem, a strong validation of the potential of the Affimer platform,” says Alastair Smith, chief executive of Avacta Group. “This alliance is an exciting opportunity not only to work with a partner who has first-class biologics manufacturing and clinical development capabilities, but a pioneering vision to develop innovative therapies.”
Affimer reagents and therapeutics are a class of non-antibody binding proteins that have been engineered for a wide range of applications. Used to detect difficult targets, Affimers also can easily be manufactured and are cost-effective.
Under the terms of the collaboration, Avacta will generate and carry out the discovery, optimization and protein engineering of Affimer drug candidates against a set of undisclosed targets. LG Chem and Avacta will collaborate to progress these candidates through to drug candidate selection, while LG Chem is responsible for preclinical and clinical development and global marketing of any resulting products. 
The deal with LG Chem “is significant for Avacta, as it's our first with a major pharmaceutical/biotech company and includes a large upfront payment and development milestones, with the potential to generate a royalty stream on any successful commercial drug, with a total value of up $310 million,” Smith tells DDNews.
“The multitarget therapeutics development agreement provides for upfront and near-term milestone payments, plus longer-term clinical development milestones totaling $180 million,” he notes, adding that “Avacta will also receive royalties on any future product sales, and LG Chem will cover Avacta’s costs of research and development associated with the collaboration. Avacta may receive an additional $130 million in option fees and milestone payments, should LG Chem elect to exercise their options for additional targets.”
“We cannot give a breakdown of milestone payments or royalty figures, but we will be able to provide some more information on the upfront and near-term payments in 2019 when certain milestones are met,” Smith says. “The collaboration will begin from a practical perspective in Q1 2019.”
According to Smith, for Avacta, this deal “provides a partnership with a fully integrated pharmaceutical company capable of clinical development, manufacturing and marketing of new drugs. Avacta brings an innovative drug platform to deliver new and potentially superior drugs into LG Chem’s pipeline.”
With regard to that drug platform, Smith says to think of Affimers as “an alternative to antibodies for therapeutics, diagnostics and research with significant technical and commercial benefits compared with antibodies. Affimers are also smaller, simpler, more robust and more adaptable. These properties translate into Affimers being quicker to develop, cheaper to manufacture and more easily combined to form multi-functional structures with greater therapeutic value.”
“The fact that Affimers are not related to antibodies means that there is freedom to operate in some valuable markets where there are blocking antibody patents. Affimers are exclusive and proprietary to Avacta,” he says. “The potential of the platform is to develop innovative new drugs that improve the clinical outcomes for patients.”
Dr. Jeewoong Son, president of LG Chem Life Sciences, refers to the joint agreement as "the next level of treatment paradigm, which could open up a new horizon in biologics therapeutic strategies.”
“I believe, this innovative collaboration will deliver value to patients and will transform patients’ lives,” Son adds.
Additionally, the agreement provides that Avacta and LG Chem will collaborate jointly in the development of two different Affimer PK/ADME modifiers, which Affimers that can be fused to other therapeutic proteins to modify certain properties of those biological drug moieties such as serum half-life and tissue localization. Both parties will have the right to develop PK/ADME modified products, and by exercise of an option, take exclusive responsibility for the development, manufacture and commercialization of those products.
The Affimer technology is Avacta’s proprietary alternative to antibodies, with wide applications in the life sciences for drug development, diagnostics and research tools. Avacta’s in-house therapeutic pipeline is focused on immuno-oncology, and the company expects to advance its lead program, a PD-L1/LAG3 bispecific, into the clinic in 2020, while building out its pipeline of innovative Affimer drug candidates.
“The long-term goals of the collaboration are to bring new drugs to market that deliver better clinical outcomes for patients in oncology and inflammatory diseases,” Smith says. “We are not able to disclose the specific disease areas we plan to develop at this point in time.”

Lori Lesko

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