AstraZeneca buys Spirogen for up to US$440m to boost antibody-drug conjugate capability

Will also make additional investment in and collaborate with ADC Therapeutics

AstraZeneca's biologics arm MedImmune has bought Spirogen for up to US$440m to bolster its oncology pipeline.

Privately-held Spirogen, based in London, UK, is focused on antibody-drug conjugate technology for use in the treatment of cancer.

MedImmune will pay an initial consideration of $200m and a deferred payment of up to $240m if Spirogen meets predetermined development milestones.

It will also pay $20m to take an equity investment in Switzerland-based ADC Therapeutics, which has a licensing agreement with Spirogen. This will be matched by Auven Therapeutics, the majority shareholder in both ADC Therapeutics and Spirogen.

MedImmune has also entered into a collaboration agreement with ADC Therapeutics to jointly develop two of the firm's antibody-drug conjugate programmes in preclinical development. This agreement will include an upfront payment with predetermined development milestones for two programmes and a cost- and profit-sharing arrangement with MedImmune representing the majority share. ADC Therapeutics will also have the option to co-promote one of the products in the US.

Antibody-drug conjugates are ground-breaking technologies with the potential for directly targeting many types of cancer tumours

Antibody-drug conjugates offer both high potency and selective targeting of cancer cells. Spirogen’s proprietary pyrrolobenzodiazepine (PBD) technology attaches highly potent cytotoxic agents, or ‘warheads’ to specific cancer-targeting antibodies using biodegradable ‘linkers’. This targeting optimises the delivery of the cancer drug to the tumour cells only and provides the greatest degree of tumour killing while minimising the toxicity to the patient.

'Antibody-drug conjugates are ground-breaking technologies with the potential for directly targeting many types of cancer tumours while safeguarding healthy cells,' said Bahija Jallal, Executive Vice President of MedImmune.

'The cutting-edge technologies developed by Spirogen and ADC Therapeutics complement MedImmune’s innovative antibody engineering capabilities, enabling us to accelerate antibody-drug conjugates into the clinic.'

Oncology is a core therapy area for AstraZeneca spanning both small molecule and biologics research and development. MedImmune is developing a portfolio with an emphasis on ADCs and immune-mediated cancer therapy, which aims to harness the power of the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.

'This deal reflects the very significant progress made by our scientists, most notably over the last two years, as we have applied our warhead and linker technologies to the development of highly potent and specific antibody-drug conjugates,' said Chris Martin, Chief Executive of Spirogen.

'We believe that pyrrolobenzodiazepine-armed antibody-drug conjugates will emerge as a critical component in the next generation of cancer biologics with the potential to make a difference for oncologists and their patients. We look forward to combining our world-class capabilities in this area with MedImmune’s ability to develop this exciting class of oncology drugs.'

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