Japanese Ono Pharmaceutical has signed a new research and licence agreement with Netherlands-based immuno-oncology company Merus for the development of a new bispecific antibody to treat autoimmune diseases.

This agreement builds on a research and license agreement the two companies signed in April 2014 for the joint development of bispecific antibody drugs to treat patients with autoimmune diseases. Under the new deal, Ono will use Merus’ Biclonics technology platform to generate a bispecific antibody.

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Ono will sponsor the research activities carried out by Merus to create a drug candidate that can bind to various targets designed for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

“We are glad to expand our collaboration and look forward to realising the next generation of high-value treatments in autoimmune disease area.”

The resulting products will be exclusively developed, manufactured and commercialised by Ono, while Merus will be eligible for an undisclosed upfront payment, milestone payments and mid-single digit royalty on net sales.

Ono Pharmaceutical corporate officer and discovery and research executive director Hiromu Habashita said: “We highly value Merus’ proprietary drug discovery technology which effectively generates full-length human bispecific antibody therapeutics.

“We are glad to expand our collaboration and look forward to realising the next generation ohigh-valueue treatments in autoimmune disease area.”

Merus CEO Ton Logtenberg said: “As we continue to advance and expand Merus’ proprietary pipeline of innovative therapeutic candidates in oncology, we are very excited to work with a collaborator such as Ono to leverage our Biclonics technology platform to develop therapeutics for other disease areas with significant unmet medical needs.”