Almost a year after they teamed up to develop an undisclosed number of new bi-specific antibody oncology immunotherapies using Zymeworks’ Azymetric™ platform, Eli Lilly and Zymeworks said today they will expand their licensing and collaboration agreement, nearly doubling its value to $375 million.

Under the expanded agreement, the companies said, Lilly will make an initial upfront payment in the form of an equity investment of undisclosed value.

Most of the remaining financial terms, Lilly and Zymeworks added, will consist of payments tied to development and commercial milestone events, “predominantly” focused on the U.S., Japan and global sales. Zymeworks will also receive tiered sales royalties based on country-by-country intellectual property, and sales to include development of several immuno-modulatory bi-specific antibodies against multiple targets.

Further financial terms were not disclosed.

“There are many targets involved in the controlled activation and redirection of the immune system and we know that immunotherapies will not be a one-size-fits-all treatment,” Sue Mahony, svp and president, Lilly Oncology, said in a statement.

Bi-specific antibodies have the potential to provide improved outcomes for patients by simultaneously targeting two tumor associated antigens to induce a synergistic therapeutic response, according to Zymeworks.

Bi-specific antibodies developed via the Azymetric platform resemble conventional mono-specific antibodies while incorporating two different Fab domains to bind to different antigens or drug targets. Azymetric antibodies spontaneously assemble into a single molecule comprising two unique heavy and light chain pairs, and are manufactured using conventional monoclonal antibody processes.

According to Zymeworks, Azymetric can significantly shorten drug development timelines through rapid screening of target and sequence combinations for bi-specific activities.

Lilly and Zymeworks launched their collaboration, then valued at up-to-$187 million, in January. At the time, Lilly agreed to pay Zymeworks an undisclosed up-front fee and research support, with Zymeworks additionally eligible to receive payments tied to research, development, and commercial milestones, plus tiered royalty payments on future product sales. The companies agreed that Lilly would have exclusive worldwide commercialization rights to the antibodies derived from the collaboration.

The expanded collaboration with Zymeworks adds to Lilly's bi-specific antibody and immunotherapy research portfolio, which grew in July when Lilly agreed to use Immunocore’s cancer immunotherapy technology in a partnership to co-discover and co-develop new T cell-based treatments. That deal could generate for Immunocore $25 million-plus per candidate developed, the companies said July 16 in disclosing their deal.

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