Sutro Biopharma, a California-based biopharmaceutical company developing antibody drug conjugates and bispecific antibodies, and EMD Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck, have inked a collaboration and license agreement to develop antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). ADCs are composed of an antibody linked to a cytotoxic drug. The antibody is thought to specifically target and deliver the cytotoxic drug to the cancer cells.
The collaboration will allow the biopharmaceutical division of Merck to take advantage of Sutro’s technology platforms in its oncology programs to develop ADCs for multiple undisclosed targets. Both companies believe ADCs have the potential for directly targeting cancer cells while safeguarding healthy tissue, and will combine Merck’s knowledge about target biology with Sutro’s technological and discovery capabilities to jointly develop ADCs.
“We continue to explore opportunities that will allow us to better understand the potential ADCs have in directly targeting cancer cells,” said Andree Blaukat, senior vice president and head of translational innovation platform oncology at EMD Serono.
William J. Newell, CEO of Sutro, said, “Together with Merck, we will further advance our efforts to develop antibody therapeutics, engineered to deliver a cytotoxic agent to cancer cells. Our technology has been developed to allow loading of an antibody with multiple different agents and to enable a potential higher uptake of the drug in the tumor cell through improved stability of the ADC.”
Sutro and Merck will collaborate to discover and develop multiple ADCs utilizing Sutro’s cell-free protein synthesis platforms, Xpress CF and Xpress CF+. Sutro will be responsible for delivering ADCs for phase I clinical trials. Merck will be responsible for clinical development and commercialization of any resulting products.
Merck will make an upfront payment to Sutro and will fund certain R&D activities. Sutro also is eligible to receive payments on completion of certain research, development and regulatory milestones potentially totaling approximately $296 million as well as royalties on product sales. Further financial details have not been disclosed.