- Antibody developer MacroGenics Inc. on Thursday added a new pharma partner to its roster of collaborators, teaming up with Roche AG to discover and develop new bispecific molecules.
- While details are sparse, Roche will pay MacroGenics $10 million upfront and line up another $370 million in potential milestone payments.
- No targets were disclosed by the companies, but MacroGenics indicated the research collaboration will tap its bispecific DART technology and Roche's own bispecifc development platform, dubbed CrossMAb.
MacroGenics has a pipeline full of bispecific antibodies, designed to target two proteins instead of one. All, however, are in early-stage development. In order to speed through the clinic, MacroGenics has turned to external partners to collaborate on some of its drug candidates.
Progress, however, has been mixed. Most recently, J&J's pharma arm Janssen dropped a deal covering a cancer candidate known as duvortuxizumab, after treatment-related neurotoxicity was observed in some patients in a Phase 1 study.
Without Janssen's support, MacroGenics said it would be unlikely it would continue further development on the candidate, prioritizing other areas of its pipeline instead. The company contends that the safety issue seen was related to the specific protein target, a molecule known as CD19, rather than the DART program itself.
Roche's interest in buying into collaborative development using DART seems to suggest they saw no broader safety concerns, either.
The Swiss pharma has an existing interest in bispecifics, developing its CrossMab technology at its Switzerland-based Pharma Research Early Development unit.
Many of Roche's R&D successes have come from its Genentech unit, which produced the blockbusters Herceptin (trastuzumab), Rituxan (rituximab) and Avastin (bevacizumab) — all monoclonal antibodies.
Bispecifics could build on that antibody success. Roche took a step forward with approval of its hemophilia drug Hemlibra (emicizumab) in 2017 and it's excited about the prospects of a cancer bispecific known as CEA-TCB.
As the deal with MacroGenics shows, the company is not done exploring what bispecifics might be able to offer.