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San Diego’s Ambrx Working with Astellas to Develop Anti-Cancer Drugs

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego-based Ambrx says it’s getting an upfront payment of $15 million under a deal with Japan’s Astellas to help develop an undisclosed number of targets for antibody drug conjugates in cancer.

The collaboration could bring an additional $285 million in potential near and long-term research, development, regulatory and sales-based milestones.

A spokeswoman for Ambrx says the FDA’s approval of Genentech’s trastuzumad emtansine (Kadcyla) in February for treating HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer has triggered broader interest in antibody drug conjugates. The technology attaches an antibody or antibody fragment to a drug molecule, such as a chemotherapy drug. The antibody binds the cytotoxic molecule to target cancer cells.

Ambrx says it has developed a new approach to create conjugations that are highly stable and target tumor cells even more specifically, enhancing the safety and efficacy of antibody drug conjugates.

Ambrx says it has granted Astellas worldwide rights to develop and commercialize ADCs for oncology. The company says a portion of its milestone payments, as well as royalties on any net sales, are contingent on successfully commercializing products.