AstraZeneca‘s global biologics R&D arm MedImmune and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma (MTPC) subsidiary Tanabe Research Laboratories USA (TRL) have agreed to develop pyrrolobenzodiazepine (pbd) based antibody drug conjugates for treatment of cancer.

Under this strategic collaboration and licensing agreement, TRL will use MedImmune’s PBD-based warhead and linker technology to generate monospecific and bispecific antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for investigation in several cancers.

The partnership will see development of next-generation ADCs by combining MedImmune’s PBD technology and TRL’s antibodies.

The deal will see MedImmune receive an upfront payment, development and commercial milestone payments, as well as single digit royalties on worldwide net sales.

"Developing next-generation antibody-drug conjugates, including our proprietary PBD technology, is one of our key strategic areas of focus in oncology."

In addition, pre-clinical research, development, manufacturing and later-stage activities, including global commercialisation will be carried out by MTPC.

MedImmune has the option to an exclusive licence for the development and commercialisation of the programmes in the US and Europe at the conclusion of a Phase Ib trial.

ADCs are a developing area of cancer drug technology that provides selective targeting of cancer cells, while the PBD technology offers cytotoxic agents, or warheads, for attachment to specific cancer-targeting antibodies.

MedImmune currently has an active internal ADC pipeline with candidates nearing the clinic, while TRL has an active programme of mono and bispecific-antibodies targeting cancer cells.

MedImmune Oncology research and development vice-president Ronald Herbst said: "Developing next-generation antibody-drug conjugates, including our proprietary PBD technology, is one of our key strategic areas of focus in oncology.

"Today’s collaboration with Tanabe Research Laboratories supports our efforts to grow our ADC portfolio through both internal activities and external partnerships, with the goal of generating novel treatments to meaningfully improve the lives of cancer patients."

Last month, MedImmune and Advaxis started a patient enrolment in a Phase I/II trial of axalimogene filolisbac (ADXS-HPV) in combination with durvalumab (MEDI4736) to treat human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cervical and neck cancer.

Axalimogene filolisbac is Advaxis’s investigational Lm Technology immunotherapy, while durvalumab is MedImmune’s investigational anti-PD-L1 immune checkpoint inhibitor.