Covagen and Tanabe Research Laboratories (TRL), a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation (MTPC), are expanding the strategic research collaboration they made in October of 2012 that is focused on using Covagen’s Fynomer-antibody (FynomAb) platform to generate bispecific proteins against two pairs of targets selected by MTPC and TRL. Tanabe nominated the first bispecific FynomAb for formal preclinical development—triggering a milestone payment—and have now exercised an option for a second bispecific FynomAb program based on the 2012 agreement. 

MTPC paid an undisclosed option fee for exclusive rights to bispecific FynomAbs against a second target pair in oncology. Per the agreement, MTPC will fund all research activities and be solely responsible for the development, manufacturing, and global commercialization activities. Covagen could receive payments of up to €108.25 million ($146.34 million) for the second program—as well as tiered royalties on worldwide net sales of products resulting from the collaboration—once certain milestones are achieved.

Covagen CSO Dragan Grabulovski, Ph.D., said in a statement that the firms decided to expand the collaboration because the discovery and early preclinical development of the FynomAb from the original collaboration was so successful.

“This FynomAb was generated less than one year after initiating the joint research collaboration and showed excellent activity in predefined in vitro and in vivo studies,” Dr. Grabulovski added. “Our work with the MTPC and TRL team has been extremely productive, and we are eager to continue development of both projects.”

Fynomers, according to Covagen, are small binding proteins that can be engineered to bind an antigen of interest. Covagen can create FynomAbs with tailored architectures by fusing Fynomers to multiple sites on an antibody. The firm currently has an internal lead bispecific anti-TNF/IL-17A FynomAb moving towards first-in-human studies in early 2014.

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