The collaboration will see Pieris advance its preclinical asthma candidate - PRS-060 - into a Phase I clinical trial this year. If the study is successful, Astrazeneca will fund subsequent clinical development and commercialization.
PRS-060 is an anticalin, which are engineered versions of human lipocalins. They are similar to monoclonal antibodies in that they bind cell surface proteins, however, they are much small which means they has the potential to treat diseases in difficult to reach locations.
The deal – which will see AstraZeneca pay $57.5m (€52.6m) upfront - also grants the Anglo-Swedish drug firm the right to develop four more of Pieris’ anticalins for the treatment of respiratory diseases.
In return, Pieris could receive development milestones and commercial payments of $2.1bn as well as tiered royalties on the sales of any potential products.
The deal comes a few months after Pieris teamed up with Servier to apply its anticalin technology to immunology-oncology.
Like the AstraZeneca deal, the agreement with Servier focused on one candidate – a PD-1 targeting checkpoint inhibitor called PRS-332 – but also granted the firm rights to other candidates in Pieris’ pipeline.
The agreement with Astrazeneca is Pieris' third this year.
In February, Pieris also licensed an option to commercialize its anaemia candidate and EPO rival, PRS-080, in Japan to Aska Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.
PRS-080 is also an anticalin. It inhibits hepcidin, a polypeptide regulator of the iron metabolism. An excess of the protein in patients with kidney disease prevents iron uptake.
The idea is that PRS-080 is used to treat anaemia in kidney disease patients an alternative to current therapies like high dose erythropoietin stimulating medicines.