Shares of Molecular Templates are up more than 52 percent in premarket trading after the company announced it has struck a deal with pharma giant Takeda Pharmaceuticals that could be worth up to $632 million to develop CD38-targeted engineered toxin bodies (ETBs).
This morning Austin, Texas-based Molecular Template said the companies will jointly develop the lead CD38-targeted engineered toxin body to target multiple myeloma. The two companies initially plan to collaborate on a CD38-targeted ETB that resulted from a previous discovery collaboration between the two companies. In an announcement late Wednesday, the two companies said they developed preclinical stage ETBs targeting CD38 under the prior discovery collaboration.
Eric Poma, chief executive and chief scientific officer at Molecular Template, said the two companies have worked closely since 2016 to develop CD38-targeted ETBs. During that time, Poma said they have made substantial improvements over its own internal program, MT-4019, a CD38 targeted ETB for multiple myeloma. Earlier this year the company said it intended to take MT-4019 into Phase I development by the end of the third quarter.
Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer found in bone marrow. There are more than 118,000 people living with, or in remission from, multiple myeloma in the United States. Approximately 30,280 Americans are diagnosed with multiple myeloma each year and 12,590 patient deaths are reported on an annual basis, according to the American Cancer Society.
Multiple myeloma cells widely express the CD38 protein, making it an increasingly important target in the development of therapeutics for multiple myeloma. There are already some CD38-targeted treatments for multiple myeloma on the market, including Janssen’s Darzalex.
By targeting the CD38 protein with ETBs, they can deliver a modified bacterial toxin to the myeloma cells. That toxin destroys the cancer cells through the enzymatic and irreversible destruction of ribosomes, the companies said. Unlike other CD38-targeted therapies, ETBs are not reliant on the body’s own immune system for effectiveness, offering the potential of broader and deeper responses, Takeda and Molecular Templates said in a statement.
“Takeda’s expertise in multiple myeloma and strong antibody capabilities allowed us to develop CD38-targeted ETBs that, of the ones tested to date, are the most potent ETBs we have created with our platform. We look forward to moving this program into the clinic,” Poma said in a statement.
Philip Rowlands, Takeda’s head of the Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit, pointed to Takeda’s long commitment to developing blood cancer treatments. As Takeda has worked with Molecular Templates over the past two years, Rowlands said they have “seen the promise” of Molecular’s ETB platform.
“As we expand our relationship and continue to explore next-generation modalities, our hope is to bring forth new and important treatment options for patients,” Rowland said in a statement.
Under terms of the agreement, Molecular Templates will receive $30 million from Takeda as part of an upfront payment. Molecular Templates is eligible to receive development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments of up to $632.5 million if Molecular Templates exercises its co-development option or $337.5 million if Molecular Templates does not exercise or opts out of its co-development option. Takeda has also agreed to pay royalties on sales of the commercial product developed through the collaboration. Molecular Templates and Takeda will share equally in the development costs.
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