Igenica Biotherapeutics has entered an oncology research agreement with AstraZeneca‘s global biologics research and development arm MedImmune to evaluate the potential of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), targeting surface antigen in leukaemia (SAIL).

The company said that preclinical data has supported the selective targeting of tumours expressing SAIL with ADCs.

As part of the deal, Igenica will contribute its anti-SAIL antibodies, including IGN786, and its SNAP ADC drug linker, while MedImmune will provide its anti-tumour payload.

Both companies will then jointly investigate the resulting new ADC in preclinical studies.

"It complements our strategy focused on targeting drugs to block the immunosuppressive activities of immune cells in the tumour microenvironment."

IGN786 is a humanised monoclonal antibody that binds to SAIL, a cell surface protein with high prevalence of expression in a variety of hematologic malignancies and several solid tumours.

In addition, MedImmune will secure an option to an exclusive worldwide licence to anti-SAIL antibodies and ADCs resulting from the collaboration.

Igenica chief business officer John Celebi said: "We are pleased to collaborate with MedImmune, a leading biotechnology company, to build on our pioneering research.

"This agreement provides a strong opportunity to realise the potential value of IGN786 and complements our strategy focused on targeting drugs to block the immunosuppressive activities of immune cells in the tumour microenvironment to reinvigorate or activate de novo anti-tumour responses."

The deal will see Igenica receive an exclusive option fee and, if MedImmune exercises its option, is also eligible to receive an upfront license fee, clinical, regulatory and commercialisation milestones, and royalties on net sales.

As part of the license agreement, MedImmune will be responsible for funding all development and commercialisation costs.

MedImmune Oncology Research & Development vice-president Ronald Herbst said: "We look forward to working with Igenica Biotherapeutics on developing a novel antibody-drug conjugate in haematology.

"Developing next generation antibody-drug conjugates is a key strategic area for us, and we are committed to advancing our pipeline in this area both externally and internally."