Daiichi Sankyo has gained an option for exclusive rights to a cancer treatment to be discovered and developed at Max Planck Innovation’s Lead Discovery Center through a new collaboration built upon a discovery partnership launched by the pharma giant and the Center three years ago.

The value of the collaboration was not disclosed. Also not disclosed was the candidate to be developed, though the partners said it would be among novel compounds that target cancer cell transcription and proliferation.

Daiichi Sankyo, Max Planck Innovation, and the Lead Discovery Center said they agreed to further optimize the compounds by drawing upon the transcriptional regulation research of Matthias Geyer, Ph.D., at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund, Germany, and the Research Center caesar (Center of Advanced European Studies and Research) in Bonn, Germany, as well as the Lead Discovery Center’s drug discovery expertise in designing highly selective kinase inhibitors.

Daiichi Sankyo and the Max Planck Society, supported by Max Planck Foundation, have agreed to jointly fund collaboration-related drug discovery efforts at the Lead Discovery Center, established in 2008 by Max Planck Innovation. Once the candidate has achieved proof-of-concept in relevant in vivo models, the partners said, Daiichi Sankyo will gain exclusive rights to license the program at predefined terms for subsequent preclinical and clinical development.

The collaboration includes an up-front payment as well as development and sales milestones plus royalties, all undisclosed. Licensing revenues will be shared between Max Planck Society, the Lead Discovery Center, and all contributing researchers and institutions, the partners said.

“It is a great pleasure for us to start this research collaboration with Max Planck Innovation and the Lead Discovery Center to further generate innovation for our cancer drug discovery efforts,” Antoine Yver, M.D., MSc, evp and global head of oncology research and development, Daiichi Sankyo, said in a statement.

Building on 2014 Partnership

Added Bert Klebl, Ph.D., managing director and CSO at the Lead Discovery Center: “This project collaboration and option agreement is building on the excellent experiences that Daiichi Sankyo and the Lead Discovery Center previously made from a discovery alliance that started in 2014, as well as close ties and many interactions between Daiichi Sankyo and the Max Planck Society, such as the collaboration with the Axel Ullrich lab.”

In the discovery alliance, the Lead Discovery Center agreed to identify promising novel targets from its pan-European network of universities and research organizations, including members of the Max Planck Society, to identify potential new treatments for high unmet medical needs. The discovery alliance focused on targeted disease areas and novel mechanisms of strategic interest to Daiichi Sankyo—including oncology as well as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Daiichi Sankyo agreed to select individual projects for screening by the Lead Discovery Center through a collection at the time of some 200,000 compounds plus an additional 70,000 compounds contributed from Daiichi Sankyo’s corporate Pharma Space Library. The Center agreed to oversee assay development and hit validation, while Daiichi Sankyo contributed research funding as well as in-kind support through its library.  

Dr. Ullrich, director of the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, founded U3 Pharma, a Max Planck spinout company specializing in the development of monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of cancer, in 2001. Seven years later, Max Planck sold U3 Pharma for €150 million ($171 million) to Daiichi Sankyo.

U3’s lead candidate, U3-1287/AMG 888 (now known as patritumab), is an investigational anti-HER3 antibody that Daiichi Sankyo said last year was under study in the ongoing Phase II I-SPY2 trial. The trial is designed to compare the combination of patritumab and standard trastuzumab and paclitaxel treatment with standard therapy alone in women with newly diagnosed, locally advanced breast cancer (Stage II/III).

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