Roche and Molecular Partners AG announced that they have entered into a research collaboration and licensing agreement to discover, develop and commercialize several proprietary therapeutics incorporating Molecular Partners’ DARPin biologics conjugated to toxic agents developed at Roche for the treatment of cancer.
DARPin-drug conjugates would be an exciting new class of drugs offering the potential of enhanced efficacy with substantial patient benefit over existing therapies.
DARPins are non-antibody-based small proteins where a variable region has been engineered for target binding. Their small size and high binding affinity enable them to home in on and penetrate deep into solid tumors. DARPins are thus ideal targeting agents to deliver toxic agents to tumors to kill cancer cells. As a result of their ability to bind to different epitopes than antibodies, and by binding to multiple epitopes or targets in parallel at the same time, DARPins are believed to have a higher selectivity for tumor cells compared to other biologics including antibody drug conjugates.
“We are excited about this collaboration as the DARPin platform is truly complementary to our internal capabilities in the large molecule space,” Sylke Poehling, head of Large Molecule Research at Roche commented. “In the field of drug conjugates, we have identified an excellent opportunity to combine our expertise with the leading company in non-antibody scaffold technology to develop transformative cancer medicines.”
Christian Zahnd, chief executive officer of Molecular Partners, added, “Roche is one of the top players in oncology and specifically the toxic payload field. By combining its technical and commercial expertise with our DARPin R&D expertise, we can rapidly develop a pipeline of highly differentiated products offering a novel approach to treating patients far more quickly than we could do independently, offering new hope for patients with unmet medical need. The DARPin-drug conjugate is an exciting new product direction for us alongside our internal proprietary DARPins and our existing partnerships in ophthalmology and immunology.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Roche has rights to develop and commercialize several DARPin-based products. Molecular Partners is entitled to receive upfront and initiation payments up to CHF 55 million. Furthermore, Molecular Partners will receive research funding and can earn more than CHF 1 billion if all development and sales milestones are met for all potential products. In addition Molecular Partners will receive tiered royalties on any future product sales into the double-digit percentage range.