American biopharmaceutical company Athenex has formed collaborations with Chinese Xiangxue Life Sciences and Hong Kong-based Avalon PolyTom to expand its pipeline for treating cancer.
The alliance with Xiangxue Life Sciences involves the formation of a joint venture (JV) to carry out research, development and commercialisation of a cancer immunotherapy technology called T-cell receptor-engineered T cells (TCR-T).
The Axis Therapeutics JV will be 55% owned by Athenex while Xiangxue will own the remaining 45% stake.
The new company has licensed the global (excluding mainland China) rights of Xiangxue’s TCR-T immunotherapy technology, subject to certain closing conditions and approvals.
Athenex will subsequently issue $5m worth of its common stock as an upfront payment to Xiangxue, and Axis Therapeutics will pay $110m in multiple clinical and regulatory milestones.
Through the second partnership, Athenex has in-licensed worldwide rights to a pegylated genetically modified human arginase or Pegtomarginase from Avalon PolyTom.
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Originally developed by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Pegtomarginase is said to feature an anti-cancer mechanism that targets tumour cells deficit in ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) and/or argininosuccinate synthetase (ASS) enzymes.
Athenex chairman and CEO Johnson Lau said: “The additions of TCR-T based cancer immunotherapy in collaboration with our long-term business partner, Xiangxue Pharmaceutical and its subsidiary Xiangxue Life Sciences, and of an anti-cancer biologic will further complement and enhance our Oncology Innovation Platform.
“We are particularly excited about the potential synergies that can be created between the new therapies and our existing pipeline. We have developed a business strategy to fully explore the potential of all these platforms.”
Athenex also secured a $100m strategic investment from investment manager Perceptive Advisors to support its operations and development, including pipeline expansion activities.