Astellas has entered into a new partnership with CytomX Therapeutics, in order to develop T-cell engaging bispecific antibodies targeting CD3 and tumour cell surface antigens for the treatment of cancer.
The companies have revealed that the deal, which is potentially worth more than $1.6 billion, will focus on several initial programmes, with CytomX leading research and discovery activities, up to clinical candidate selection, which will be funded by Astellas.
As part of the deal, Astellas has confirmed that it will make an upfront cash payment of $80 million to CytomX, with the latter eligible to receive future milestones of over $1.6 billion, plus tiered royalties on global net sales that range from high-single digits to mid-teens.
Further to the agreement, the businesses will utilise CytomX's Probody therapeutic technology platform, as well as its bispecific formats and CD3 modules.
The drugmakers noted that Probody therapeutics are designed to remain inactive until they are activated by proteases in the tumour microenvironment, thereby reducing toxicities and potentially creating safer, more effective therapies. The parties explained that Probody T-cell engaging bispecifics are antibody constructs capable of directing cytotoxic T-cells to tumour microenvironments, leading to cell-mediated anti-cancer activity.
"Immuno-oncology is a primary focus of our R&D strategy, and we are working on the development of next-generation cancer immuno-therapy using new modalities/technologies," commented Naoki Okamura, chief strategy officer at Astellas.