ETBs can reportedly be developed against targets intractable to antibodies and small molecules.

Molecular Templates and the Lilly subsidiary ImClone Systems signed an oncology drug discovery and translational research collaboration to identify engineered toxin bodies (ETBs) against an undisclosed ImClone target.

ImClone will carry out preclinical studies to evaluate the potential of using the ETB technology in oncology. Once the evaluation stage is complete, the firm will then have the option to continue exclusive development of selected ETBs for potential commercialization by Lilly. Molecular Templates will receive up-front payments, milestones, and royalties for selected programs. Eric Poma, Molecular Templates’ president and CEO, said the deal represents a “validation of our novel platform and its potential to be used to discover and develop the next generation of targeted biologic medicines.”

Molecular Templates is exploiting its bacterial toxin-derived ETB technology for the development of therapeutics in a range of disease fields. ETBs are engineered to have distinct target specificity and reduced immunogenicity, while retaining the biologically active features and predictable pharmacokinetics of the parent toxin, the firm says.

Benefits of the technology include the ability to develop ETBs against validated therapeutic cell surface receptors as well as nontraditional targets that cannot be targeted by antibodies or small molecules, the firm claims. It has created libraries of ETBs by embedding random targeting domains into bacterial toxin scaffolds to give each molecule a distinct binding affinity.

Molecular Templates is leveraging its Direct Select Platform (DSP) to identify ETBs for diseases including cancer, virology, autoimmune diseases, and neurological disorders. The lead in-house candidate is a melanoma-targeting ETB, MTI-SAM3, which is currently in preclinical development.

In April the Texas-based firm raised $2.5 million in a Series A financing round with Santé Ventures to continue product development and conduct clinical trials. Molecular Templates was originally founded by researchers at the University of Toronto and the Ontario Cancer Institute. It relocated to Austin in conjunction with the financing from Santé.

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