Roche and Molecular Partners, a privately-owned biotech company, have entered into a research collaboration and licensing agreement to discover, develop and commercialize several proprietary therapeutics incorporating Molecular Partners’ DARPin biologics conjugated to toxic agents developed at Roche for the treatment of cancer.
DARPin-drug conjugates would be a new class of drugs offering the potential of enhanced efficacy with substantial patient benefit over existing therapies. DARPins are non-antibody-based small proteins where a variable region has been engineered for target binding. Their small size and high binding affinity enable them to hone in on and penetrate deep into solid tumors. DARPins are thus ideal targeting agents to deliver toxic agents to tumors to kill cancer cells. As a result of their ability to bind to different epitopes than antibodies, and by binding to multiple epitopes or targets in parallel at the same time, DARPins are believed to have a higher selectivity for tumor cells compared to other biologics, including antibody drug conjugates.
Molecular Partners is entitled to receive upfront and initiation payments up to $60.9 million. Molecular Partners will receive research funding and can earn more than $1.1 billion if all development and sales milestones are met for all potential products. In addition, Molecular Partners will receive tiered royalties on any future product sales into the double-digit percentage range.