Zymeworks, GSK expand antibody work

The new licensing agreement covers the research, development and commercialization of novel bi-specific antibodies designed with the Azymetric platform

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VANCOUVER, Canada—Zymeworks Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have established a new licensing agreement for the research, development and commercialization of novel bi-specific antibodies designed using Zymeworks' Azymetric drug discovery platform. This platform develops bi-specific antibodies that resemble mono-specific antibodies but bind to two different targets. The antibodies spontaneously assemble into a single molecule with two different Fab domains comprising of unique heavy and light chain pairings, and can be easily adapted to screen target and sequence combinations for bi-specific activities in the final therapeutic format.
Per the terms of the agreement, GSK will have an option to develop and commercialize multiple bi-specific drugs across a variety of disease areas. In return, GSK will make upfront and preclinical payments to Zymeworks of up to $36 million, with the potential for up to $152 million in development and clinical milestone payments and commercial sales milestone payments of up to $720 million. Zymeworks is also eligible to receive tiered royalties on potential sales.
“We are excited to be expanding our relationship with GSK to include our Azymetric bi-specific platform. We view this new collaboration as evidence of our valuable role as a partner and the strength of our proprietary drug development platforms,” Dr. Ali Tehrani, president and CEO of Zymeworks, remarked in a press release. “The proceeds from this collaboration will be used to advance our pipeline of therapeutic candidates, including the Azymetric antibody ZW25 and the Azymetric antibody-drug conjugate ZW33, into human clinical trials this year. They will also be utilized to support the continued expansion and strengthening of our core capabilities in antibody discovery, protein engineering and antibody-drug conjugates."
Zymeworks and GSK signed a collaboration and license agreement in December 2015 to further develop Zymeworks' Effector Function Enhancement and Control Technology (EFECT) platform and to research, develop and commercialize novel Fc-engineered monoclonal and bi-specific antibody therapeutics optimized for specific therapeutic effects. This second agreement also gives GSK the right to combine the Azymetric platform with novel engineered Fc domains developed under the previously announced collaboration.
Zymeworks' EFECT platform is a library of antibody Fc modifications designed to modulate the activity of the antibody-mediated immune response, including both the up- and down-regulation of effector functions. It is compatible with traditional monoclonal and Azymetric bi-specific antibodies.
This deal comes roughly a month after Zymeworks announced the completion of the merger and acquisition of Kairos Therapeutics. The company expects this deal to result in an industry-leading biologics drug discovery and development organization. In light of the deal's completion, several Kairos employees will join the Zymeworks staff, including John Babcook, president and chief scientific officer of Kairos, who will serve as senior vice president of Discovery Research at Zymeworks. The combined company will continue to base its headquarters in Vancouver.
The acquisition nets Zymeworks a proprietary next-generation antibody-drug conjugate platform based on novel toxin, linker and site-specific conjugation technology that is synergistic with Zymeworks’ Azymetric, AlbuCORE and EFECT technologies. Kairos also brings with it a pipeline of partnered ADCs targeting novel cancer targets that have the potential to enter clinical development in the near term.

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