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As part of the deal, J&J’s Janssen will pay an upfront payment of $50 million to research, develop, and commercialize up to six bispecific antibodies.
Zymeworks, a Canadian clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, announced on Nov. 13, 2017 that it has executed a licensing agreement with Janssen Biotech, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, for bispecific antibodies. The deal, facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, is worth nearly $1.5 billion.
Under the agreement, Zymeworks will provide Janssen with a worldwide, royalty-bearing license to research, develop, and commercialize up to six bispecific antibodies. The antibodies will be directed to Janssen therapeutic targets using Zymeworks’ Azymetric and EFECT technology platforms.
Janssen will pay an upfront payment of $50 million. In addition, Zymeworks is eligible to potentially receive up to $282 million in development and up to $1.12 billion in commercial milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties on potential sales. Janssen also has the option to develop two additional bispecific programs under the agreement, which is subject to a future option payment. Janssen will be responsible for all research, development, and commercial activities under the agreement.
The Azymetric platform enables monospecific antibodies to be transformed into bispecific antibodies. This gives them the ability to simultaneously bind two different targets. The technology platform thus enables the development of multifunctional biotherapeutics that can block multiple signaling pathways, recruit immune cells to tumors, enhance receptor clustering degradation, and increase tumor-specific targeting that can improve efficacy while reducing toxicities and the potential for drug-resistance.
Azymetric-developed bispecific antibodies have been engineered to retain the desirable drug-like qualities of naturally occurring antibodies, including low immunogenicity, long half-life, and high stability, and are also compatible with standard manufacturing processes with high yields and purity.
The EFECT platform is a library of antibody Fc modifications that have been engineered to modulate the activity of the antibody-mediated immune response. This includes both the up- and down-regulation of effector functions. This platform is compatible with traditional monoclonal antibodies, as well as with Azymetric bispecific antibodies, to further enable customization of therapeutic responses for different diseases.