- Canadian biopharma Zymeworks Inc. on Monday announced a licensing deal with Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Biotech Inc. for up to six bispecific antibodies, expanding its roster of pharma partners.
- Janssen will pay Zymeworks $50 million upfront, with the potential for $1.4 billion in development and commercial payments spread across all future candidates that result from the collaboration.
- "The proceeds from this collaboration will be primarily used to fund the clinical advancement of ZW25, as well as the advancement of our preclinical programs into the clinic," said company CEO Ali Tehrani, in a Nov. 13 statement.
Investors reacted favorably to news of the deal, sending shares in Zymeworks up nearly 25% on the New York Stock Exchange Monday morning.
J&J's interest, as well as that of Zymeworks' five other pharma partners, centers on the biotech's so-called Azymetric and EFECT technology platforms.
With Azymetric, Zymeworks can engineer monospecific antibodies into bispecific antibodies, enabling the large molecules to seek out and bind to two different targets. EFECT refers to Zymeworks' library of antibody Fc modifications that are designed to regulate the activity of immune cells in both directions — either boosting cytotoxicity or down-shifting unwanted activity to suppress a response.
A growing list of pharma partnerships
|Partner||Year||Upfront payment (in millions)||Total potential deal value (in millions)||Number of compounds covered|
|Merck||2011, amended 2014||$1.25||$191||3|
|Eli Lilly||2013||$1||$103||1, with option for another|
|Celgene||2014||-||$1,300||Up to 8|
|GlaxoSmithKline||2015||-||$1,100||Up to 10|
|GlaxoSmithKline||2016||$6||$908||Up to 6|
|J&J||2017||$50||$1,450||Up to 6|
Like many of Zymeworks' prior deals, the agreement with Janssen is largely structured around milestone payments.
Janssen gains a license to develop up to six bispecific antibodies, with as much as $282 million tied to unspecified development milestones and up to another $1.12 billion upon reaching certain commercial milestones. The pharma also gains an option to develop two more bispecific programs, which would trigger an option payment.
As Tehrani indicated, the upfront cash will help Zymeworks develop its wholly owned product candidate ZW25, an anti-HER2 and HER2 bispecific currently in Phase 1 testing. Zymeworks hopes ZW25's binding to two non-overlapping epitopes of HER2 leads to higher anti-tumor activity for HER2-expressing cancers.