UK-based life sciences group Abzena has signed a licensing contract and a master service and clinical supply agreement with Taiwanese biopharmaceutical company OBI Pharma to enable process development and manufacturing using ThioBridge.

ThioBridge, a new site-specific antibody drug conjugate (ADC) linker technology of Abzena, will be used to develop OBI’s ADC, OBI-999, and a series of further ADCs as potential treatments for cancer.

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The ADC technology, which links antibodies and other proteins to drugs, also has the ability to maintain the stability of the antibody and a consistent drug-to-antibody ratio (DAR), providing a more uniform product.

OBI-999 specifically targets cancer cells overexpressing the cancer antigen Globo H, which is part of the Globo series that comprises a group of cancer-associated carbohydrate antigens.

The Globo series includes Globo H, SSEA3 and SSEA4 that are overexpressed in more than 14 types of cancers, including breast, lung, gastric, and colorectal.

In preclinical studies, OBI has observed encouraging results for OBI-999 and plans to accelerate the development of the product candidate and other Globo series ADCs.

The company is currently carrying out Phase I IND preparations, including Chemistry Manufacturing Control (CMC) planning and toxicology study design.

As part of the deal, OBI will have a worldwide exclusive licence to use the ThioBridge technology to research, develop and commercialise ADCs targeting the Globo series.

"The collaboration enhances our ADC development programme and we hope to develop effective cancer treatments for patients with cancers that express Globo series antigens."

In return, Abzena will receive a small initial up-front payment from OBI and has the potential to receive up to £128m, subject to successful development.

The amount may become payable upon achievement of certain development, regulatory and commercialisation milestones.

Abzena will also receive royalties on the sales of any approved ADC products that use the ThioBridge technology.

OBI Pharma general manager Amy Huang said: "The collaboration enhances our ADC development programme and we hope to develop effective cancer treatments for patients with cancers that express Globo series antigens."

Under the master service and clinical supply agreement, Abzena will provide OBI with further manufacturing process development and GMP manufacture of OBI-999 and further ADCs.

Abzena CEO Dr John Burt said: "This latest licence deal follows on from a successful evaluation programme of the ThioBridge technology for OBI by Abzena.

“The overall ADC development programme for OBI draws on Abzena’s chemistry research and manufacturing capabilities across the Cambridge (UK) and Bristol (Pennsylvania) facilities, and reaffirms the value of Abzena’s integrated offering.

“The expansion of our offering to include GMP manufacturing for ADCs has been enabled by our recent fundraising, and this deal is a good example of our ability to continue to support our partners with our broader chemistry research services, process development and manufacturing capabilities.”