New Ambrx CEO Discusses Latest Deal, with China’s Zhejiang Medicine

6/18/13Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego’s Ambrx, co-founded in 2003 by the prominent chemist Peter Schultz (who remains on its board), has advanced its technology for antibody-drug conjugates by forging a series of drug discovery and development partnerships with Big Pharmas like Merck, Eli Lilly, Astellas, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Now, in what a spokeswoman calls a “significant departure” from its previous collaborations, Ambrx says it has formed a collaboration with China’s Zhejiang Medicine to develop and commercialize ARX788, a preclinical antibody drug conjugate that targets HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.

Ambrx CEO Lawson Macartney, a Scot who joined Ambrx in January from Shire’s specialty pharmaceutical business in Switzerland, told me by phone yesterday that financial terms of the deal with Zhejiang were not being disclosed. Still, he allowed that “there are financial considerations” for Ambrx.

Lawson Macartney

The big difference in this deal is that Zhejian will bear the drug development costs going forward, according to Simon Allen, Ambrx’ chief business officer. If ARX788 makes it through clinical trials and all the way through regulatory approval, Zhejiang would get commercial rights to the drug in China, while Ambrx would retain commercial rights everywhere outside of China, and also would get royalties on product sales in China. It’s a deal that helps advance a potentially lucrative anti-cancer drug without a huge investment by Ambrx (limiting the company’s financial risks) and still preserves commercialization rights outside China for Ambrx, Allen said.

But how lucrative would such a drug be? ARX788 is targeting a type of advanced breast cancer already well-served by Roche-Genentech’s trastuzumab (Herceptin) and another antibody-drug conjugate known as T-DM1, or ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla), that won … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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