Roche and Molecular Partners AG have entered into a research collaboration and licensing agreement to discover, develop and commercialize several therapeutics using Molecular Partners’ DARPin biologics conjugated to toxic agents developed at Roche for the treatment of cancer. DARPins are non-antibody-based small proteins that have been engineered for target binding, making them ideal to deliver toxic agents to tumors and kill cancer cells. DARPin-drug conjugates offer the potential of enhanced efficacy with substantial patient benefit over existing therapies.
Roche has rights to develop and commercialize several DARPin-based products and Molecular Partners is entitled to receive upfront and initiation payments as much as CHF 55 million. Molecular Partners will receive research funding and can earn more than CHF 1 billion if all development and sales milestones are met, and will receive royalties on any future product sales.
“We are excited about this collaboration as the DARPin platform is truly complementary to our internal capabilities in the large molecule space,” Sylke Poehling, head of Large Molecule Research at Roche commented. “In the field of drug conjugates, we have identified an excellent opportunity to combine our expertise with the leading company in non-antibody scaffold technology to develop transformative cancer medicines.”
Christian Zahnd, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Molecular Partners, said, “Roche is one of the top players in oncology and specifically the toxic payload field. By combining its technical and commercial expertise with our DARPin R&D expertise, we can rapidly develop a pipeline of highly differentiated products offering a novel approach to treating patients far more quickly than we could do independently, offering new hope for patients with unmet medical need. The DARPin-drug conjugate is an exciting new product direction for us alongside our internal proprietary DARPins and our existing partnerships in ophthalmology and immunology.”