The partners will work with "up to three" targets selectedby Merck Serono as the basis for the joint discovery of antibody fragments aswell as bi-specific antibodies. F-Star will receive research funding as well asa technology access fee, and license fees and milestones will be paid out asthe projects progress.
While no additional financial details were released, KevinFitzGerald, F-Star's CEO, said in a press release that achieving the full$691.1 million value would require commercialization of products.
"We certainly value our partnerships," FitzGeraldsaid. "They have real benefits that go beyond early and midterm cash. Theyare a great validation for the technology, great internally in terms ofmotivating our people and showing pharma is interested in our technology."
F-Star's modularantibody technology allows it to engineer additional antigen-binding sites intoboth antibodies and antibody fragments. Its Fcab antibody fragments enable theproduction of entities a third of the size of normal antibodies with the samefunctionality, but a longer half-life than antibody fragments usually have.Fcabs, according to FitzGerald, can be used as therapeutic products or asmodules for generating mAb2 antibodies. F-Star's mAb2, or bi-specific,antibodies offer greater functionality than their conventional counterparts aswell as the option of having two binding sites for the same disease antigen,dual targeting against a second antigen or using the additional binding site forthe delivery of the antibody to a specific tissue.
"We believe that F-Star's modular antibody technology hasthe potential to offer important functional advantages over conventionalantibodies and will potentially allow us to generate highly differentiateddrugs," Susan Herbert, head of portfolio development at Merck Serono, saidin a press release.