Roche has ended its nearly two-year-old collaboration with Heidelberg Pharma, parent WILEX said today—the second time in nearly three weeks that the pharma giant has discontinued an alliance based on fighting cancer through antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs).
The companies launched their collaboration in September 2013, with the goal of creating a new class of ADCs based on Heidelberg Pharma’s technology of coupling the peptide α-Amanitin to antibodies. α-Amanitin is a bicyclic peptide naturally occurring in the green Death Cap mushroom—which had been shown to inhibit the biosynthesis of RNA, a mechanism critical for cells survival.
Roche secured a license for the technology from Heidelberg Pharma, which was to receive regular payments for granting access to its technology and providing research services. The original deal also gave Roche options for licenses to develop and market selected Antibody Targeted Amanitin Conjugates (ATACs). Heidelberg Pharma agreed to manufacture these ATACs, in return for Roche agreeing to pay upfront payments, milestone payments, and royalties for each development candidate selected by the pharma.
More than a year later in October 2014, the companies extended their collaboration by agreeing to research selected ATACs for multiple tumor targets based on Roche antibodies. The companies also agreed to grant Roche exclusive rights to one additional undisclosed tumor target—in return for Heidelberg Pharma potentially receiving in return up to €52 million (about $58 million) in upfront and milestone payments for successful clinical development and regulatory approval, plus royalties.
As of November 30, WILEX said in its Annual Report 2014, Heidelberg Pharma and Roche had four preclinical ATACs in development for cancer.
Because ATACs had shown comparable activity against proliferating and resting tumor cells in several preclinical tumor models, Roche and Heidelberg Pharma reasoned that ATACs differed from other ADCs, which preferentially target proliferating tumor cells. ATACs were also thought by the companies to have a substantial capability of overcoming the resistance mechanisms which have limited the efficacy of other antibody drug conjugates.
“In the cooperation with Roche, where we are combining our unique toxin with antibodies from Roche, we hope to generate promising preclinical data for various target molecules,” WILEX CFO Jan-Schmidt-Brand, Ph.D., who is also spokesman for the Executive Management Board, stated in the company’s Half-Yearly Financial Report for 2015, published July 14 and covering the six months from December 1, 2014-May 31, 2015.
As a result of Roche ending the collaboration, WILEX said today, it has lowered its sales revenue forecasts from the end of the second quarter 2016 to the first quarter of 2016. The company previously projected between €4 million ($4.5 million) and €6 million ($7.3 million) in annual sales revenue and other income.
On July 24, Molecular Partners said Roche had terminated its cancer collaboration with Molecular Partners, as part of a retreat by the pharma giant away from Pseudomonas exotoxin conjugate programs. The collaboration—which included conjugate programs co-developed with Molecular Partners’ DARPin® biologics—could have generated up to $1 billion-plus for Molecular Partners.