OBT, easy as ADC
December 2012
by Lloyd Dunlap  |  Email the author


Oxford, U.K.óOxford BioTherapeutics (OBT) and Menarini Group have formed a strategic alliance to develop a portfolio of antibody-based anticancer drugs. The agreement covers five of OBT's antibody and antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) programs, each of which addresses a different cancer indication via a different novel oncology target.
The deal brings together OBT's discovery expertise with Menarini's clinical knowledge and expanding capabilities in the manufacture and development of biologics to build value for both companies as they work to bring a portfolio of next-generation antibody-based cancer drugs to market.
Menarini is an international pharmaceutical company that, with a 2011 consolidated worldwide turnover of more than $3.8 billion, ranks 17th in Europe and 34th worldwide. The company covers more than 100 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America, with 15,000 employees. Menarini was founded 125 years ago and currently markets products in the most important therapeutic areas: respiratory, cardiovascular, gastroenterology, oncology, metabolism, antibiotics, diabetes, anti-inflammatories and analgesics.  
Under the collaboration, Menarini will lead the efforts in the manufacture and clinical development of each program, supported by OBT, while OBT will provide the proprietary cancer target, antibody and arming technologies.  
"OBT is responsible for the discovery and selection of the development candidates," says OBT CEO Christian Rohlff. "Menarini will then lead the development of the selected antibodies or ADCs through clinical proof-of-concept studies. OBT will conduct certain activities during this development phase, and then both companies may continue clinical development and commercialization in separate territories."
Once clinical proof of concept has been achieved, OBT will complete the clinical development and commercialize the novel antibody-based products in North America and Japan, while Menarini will develop and commercialize the products in Europe, CIS, Asia and Latin America.  
"I am delighted to collaborate with Menarini, a company that has made impressive achievements in biologics development and demonstrated an enduring commitment to the development of innovative cancer therapies," Rohlff states. "This creative alliance is transformational for us, as it allows OBT to participate in the clinical development and future commercialization of our programs, while at the same time it bolsters Menarini's pipeline with a portfolio of the next generation of cancer drugs. We believe this innovative business framework could become the business model of choice for rapidly growing biotechnology companies seeking new ways to develop their drug pipeline effectively."
OBT's recently established development operation in Basel, Switzerland, under the direction of chief operating officer Dr. Esteban Pombo, will play a central role in supporting the new collaboration.
"The Basel operation was set up to lead the clinical development of OBT's programs," Rohlff notes. "The unit will work closely with Menarini to lead a coordinated development strategy for the partnered programs, and will lead the development activities which fall under OBT's responsibilities."  
Oxford BioTherapeutics was known as Oxford Genome Sciences until a name change in December 2008, "reflecting the company's focus on delivering innovative and cost-effective first-in-class medicines to fulfill major unmet patient needs in the field of cancer," Rohlff observes. OBT has since put in place a number of strategic and enabling partnerships with world-leading biopharmaceutical companies, including Seattle Genetics, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (Medarex), Amgen, Alere (formerly Biosite), GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Sanofi, providing access to the most advanced antibody technologies, and enabling OBT to convert its novel oncology targets into a highly attractive pipeline of therapeutic antibodies.  
OBT has also significantly expanded its operations, establishing a U.S. team in San Jose, Calif., focused on therapeutic antibody development under the direction of Dr. Jon Terrett, chief scientific officer, in addition to launching its operations in Basel, says Rohlff.  
Alberto Giovanni Aleotti, a member of Menarini's board of directors, adds, "we are eager to start our collaboration with OBT, an oncology company with a proven track record of generating innovative antibody-based cancer drug candidates that are designed to address high unmet medical needs. I am very pleased that this novel strategic alliance, which foresees the development and manufacture of up to five cancer treatment programs and a total investment of 800 million Euros, will enable us to further demonstrate our deep and long-standing commitment to the fight against cancer, which has always been crucial to Menarini's overall corporate mission."  
No additional financial details were released.
Code: E121208

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