Sutro Biopharma and Merck KGaA entered a collaboration and license agreement to develop antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). The biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA will take advantage of Sutro’s technology platforms in its oncology programs to develop ADCs for multiple undisclosed targets.

As part of the agreement, Sutro and Merck KGaA will discover and develop multiple ADCs utilizing Sutro’s cell-free protein synthesis platforms, Xpress CF™ and Xpress CF+™. Sutro will deliver ADCs for Phase I trials while Merck KGaA will be responsible for clinical development and commercialization of any resulting products.

An undisclosed upfront payment to Sutro from Merck KGaA will fund certain R&D activities. Sutro is also eligible to receive payments on completion of certain research, development, and regulatory milestones potentially totaling approximately €230 million (approximately $298.4 million) in addition to royalties on product sales.

The companies said they will combine Merck KGaA’s knowledge about target biology with Sutro’s technological and discovery capabilities to jointly develop ADCs.

“We continue to explore opportunities that will allow us to better understand the potential ADCs have in directly targeting cancer cells,” said Andree Blaukat, senior vice president and head of translational innovation platform oncology at Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA.

“Together with Merck KGaA, we will further advance our efforts to develop antibody therapeutics, engineered to deliver a cytotoxic agent to cancer cells,” said William J. Newell, CEO of Sutro. “Our technology has been developed to allow loading of an antibody with multiple different agents and to enable a potential higher uptake of the drug in the tumor cell through improved stability of the ADC.”

Merck KGaA had entered another ADC development deal earlier this year. In June, the company’s EMD Serono subsidiary and Mersana Therapeutics teamed up to develop ADCs using Mersana’s Fleximer® technology.

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