Privately-held biotherapeutics company Zymeworks has entered into a licensing agreement with GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals (GSK) to research, develop and market bi-specific antibodies.

Bi-specific antibodies developed using Zymeworks’ Azymetric drug discovery platform resemble conventional mono-specific antibodies, while being able to simultaneously bind to two different targets, resulting in additive or synergistic therapeutic responses.

As per the deal, GSK can both develop and commercialise several bi-specific drugs across different disease areas.

For this purpose, Zymeworks will be awarded upfront and preclinical payments of up to $36m and will also be eligible for development and clinical milestone payments of up to $152m.

“We are excited to be expanding our relationship with GSK to include our Azymetric bi-specific platform.”

The company will additionally receive up to $720m in commercial sales milestone payments along with tiered royalties on sales.

Zymeworks president and CEO Ali Tehrani said: “We are excited to be expanding our relationship with GSK to include our Azymetric bi-specific platform.

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“We view this new collaboration as evidence of our valuable role as a partner and the strength of our proprietary drug development platforms.

“The proceeds from this collaboration will be used to advance our pipeline of therapeutic candidates, including the Azymetric antibody ZW25 and the Azymetric antibody drug conjugate ZW33, into human clinical trials this year.

“They will also be utilised to support the continued expansion and strengthening of our core capabilities in antibody discovery, protein engineering, and antibody drug conjugates.”

In December last year, the two companies entered into a collaboration and licence agreement to continue developing Zymeworks’ Effector Function Enhancement and Control Technology (EFECT) platform.

Under this agreement, Zymeworks and GSK will research, develop, and commercialise Fc-engineered monoclonal and bi-specific antibody therapeutics that have been maximised for certain therapeutic effects.

GSK has also received the right to integrate the Azymetric platform with novel engineered Fc domains developed under the previously announced deal.