Zymeworks has earned a milestone payment from Merck achieved under the companies’ 2014 research and license agreement. Zymeworks will receive US$2.0 million in connection with Merck’s completion of a late-stage preclinical study for a bispecific antibody candidate using Zymeworks’ proprietary Azymetric™ and EFECT™ therapeutic platforms.
“Merck’s completion of this milestone is great news,” said Ali Tehrani, Ph.D., President and CEO of Zymeworks. “We believe this accomplishment from another one of our long-term partners provides additional evidence of the potential of our bispecific antibody technology. We expect similar advancements from our other partners’ therapeutic programs in the years ahead.”
Under the terms of the research and license agreement, Zymeworks has granted Merck a worldwide, royalty-bearing license to research, develop and commercialize certain bispecific therapeutic candidates toward Merck’s therapeutic targets for which Zymeworks is eligible to receive additional development and commercial milestone payments as well as tiered royalties on product sales.
The Azymetric platform enables the transformation of monospecific antibodies into bispecific antibodies, giving the antibodies the ability to simultaneously bind two different targets. Azymetric bispecific technology enables the development of multifunctional biotherapeutics that can block multiple signaling pathways, recruit immune cells to tumors, enhance receptor clustering degradation, and increase tumor-specific targeting. These features are intended to enhance efficacy while reducing toxicities and the potential for drug resistance. Azymetric bispecifics have been engineered to retain the desirable drug-like qualities of naturally occurring antibodies, including low immunogenicity, long half-life and high stability. In addition, they are compatible with standard manufacturing processes with high yields and purity, potentially significantly reducing drug development costs and timelines.
The EFECT platform is a library of antibody Fc modifications engineered to modulate the activity of the antibody-mediated immune response, which includes both the up- and down-regulation of effector functions. This platform, which is compatible with traditional monoclonal as well as Azymetric bispecific antibodies, further enables the customization of therapeutic responses for different diseases.