Astellas and Ambrx sign $300 million ADC oncology deal
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


TOKYO and SAN DIEGO—Astellas Pharma Inc. has entered into a collaboration with Ambrx Inc. for the discovery and development of novel antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) against an undisclosed number of targets in oncology.  For this, Ambrx will receive an upfront payment of $15 million from Astellas and as much as $285 million in potential near- and long-term research, development, regulatory and sales- based milestones
Some of these milestones, as well as royalties on any net sales, of course, would be contingent on eventual successful commercialization of products developed as a result of this partnership, the parties note. For its part, Astellas will receive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize ADCs for oncology.
Additional terms of the collaboration have not been disclosed.   
"Agensys Inc., an affiliate of Astellas which specializes in therapeutic antibody research and development in cancer, has significant experience with ADCs as oncology therapeutics and is looking to further expand its capabilities in this area. Ambrx offers a novel approach to allow creation of site-specific and highly stable conjugations that have the potential to further optimize drug delivery to tumor cells," said Dr. David Stover, an Astellas senior vice president and Agensys site head.   
ADCs allow for the targeted delivery of drugs to the target tissue, the two companies notes, and Ambrx creates optimized ADCs using its site-specific conjugation technology along with proprietary linkers and payloads. In the preclinical setting, Ambrx ADCs reportedly have demonstrated high potency and a wider therapeutic index than ADCs created using conventional non-specific conjugation.
"We recognize Astellas as a leader in the development of innovative therapeutics for oncology and are proud to initiate this collaboration," said Lawson Macartney, CEO of Ambrx. "We look forward to developing these therapeutics while also advancing our broad pipeline of partnered and wholly owned therapeutic candidates with best-in- class conjugation."
Noting that Astellas currently has in its pipeline  AGS-16M8F/AGS-16C3F for renal cancer, ASG-5ME for prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer and ASG-22ME for solid tumors—all in Phase I—Zacks Investment Research wrote in an investor 's note, "We are positive on this collaboration, which should help expand Astellas' capability in the development of ADCs for oncology."
Ambrx is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company using an expanded genetic code to create best-in-class biotherapeutics, including ADCs and proteins with improved pharmacologic properties. The company is developing ARX201, a long- acting growth hormone that has successfully completed Phase IIb clinical trials. Ambrx has collaborations to discover and develop products incorporating Ambrx technology with Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company and several undisclosed companies.
Astellas employs approximately 17,000 people worldwide, and it has stated a commitment to becoming a global category leader in oncology, as well as urology, immunology, infectious diseases, neuroscience and kidney diseases.
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