In order to identify targets, both companies will use CytomX’s probody therapeutic technology platform to develop T-cell engaging bispecific antibodies targeting CD3 and tumor cell surface antigens.
Astellas will pay $80m (€72m) upfront to gain access to CytomX’s platform, as well as the potential for further milestone payments exceeding $1.6bn (€1.45bn).
CytomX is expected to lead R&D activities up to clinical candidate selection, with these efforts fully funded by Astellas.
Beyond this, Astellas will lead and fund preclinical, clinical and commercial activities.
CytomX will have the option to co-fund a specific number of targets, in return the company will be eligible to receive a predetermined portion of profit in the US and royalties on net sales outside of the US. In addition, the company can choose to co-commercialize the products in the US.
In terms of the object of the deal, CytomX’s probody therapeutics are designed to be inactive in the body until activated by proteases in the tumor microenvironment, the company stated. This reduces the toxicity of the antibodies and potentially improves efficacy.
“At Astellas, immuno-oncology is a primary focus of our R&D strategy, and we are working on the development of next-generation cancer immuno-therapy using new modalities/technologies,” stated Naoki Okamura, chief strategy officer and chief financial officer at Astellas.