AstraZeneca’s research and development arm MedImmune has signed an exclusive license agreement with drug discovery company Compugen to develop bi-specific and multi-specific antibody products for immuno-oncology.

Under the deal, MedImmune will develop products under the licence provided by Compugen for one of its pipeline programmes.

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However, Compugen will retain all other rights to its entire pipeline of programmes as monotherapies and in combination with other products.

MedImmune has the right to create multiple products under this license and will be solely responsible for all research, development and commercial activities.

MedImmune oncology research & development vice-president Ronald Herbst said: “This agreement with Compugen will support our ability to generate novel immunotherapy targets which, coupled with MedImmune’s expertise in antibody engineering, can advance our goal of delivering treatments to meaningfully improve the lives of cancer patients.”

“This agreement will support our ability to generate novel immunotherapy targets that can advance our goal of delivering treatments to meaningfully improve the lives of cancer patients.”

The company will pay $10m upfront to Compugen, which is also eligible for another $200m based on development, regulatory and commercial milestones of the first candidate, along with royalties on product sales.

Compugen president and CEO Anat Cohen-Dayag said: “This licensing deal allows us to monetise specific scientific advances in our programmes, while we continue to advance our lead programmes into clinical trials.”

Bi-specific antibodies are developed by genetically engineering natural antibodies for attaching to various proteins via two different arms that are created by replacing one arm of another antibody with separate target specificity.

Multi-specific antibodies are created in a similar manner by engineering an antibody to simultaneously bind to three or more target proteins.

These engineered forms of antibodies are increasingly being developed as therapeutics, as they enable multiple mechanisms of action for treating disease within a single molecule.