Xencor said today it awarded a nonexclusive license for one of its Fc engineering patents for a therapeutic monoclonal antibody to Merck & Co.

The price was not disclosed, though Xencor did say it would receive from Merck an up-front payment and annual maintenance fees. Xencor added that it was eligible for payments tied to milestones associated with the successful development of Merck product candidates, as well as royalties on sales of any potential products developed through the technology license and option agreement.

The agreement gives Merck access to the license for use in an undisclosed product, as well as an option to license the same intellectual property for future products.

“This agreement with Merck reflects the significant value we have seen in the use of our extensive antibody engineering IP for enhancing next-generation protein and antibody-drug candidates,” Xencor CEO Bassil Dahiyat, Ph.D., said in a statement.

The agreement is the second announced between the companies. In 2009, Xencor awarded an exclusive license for its Xtend™ antibody half-life prolongation technology to Merck, for development of antibodies towards an undisclosed Merck drug target. At the time, Merck agreed to pay Xencor a $3 million up-front license fee, an additional undisclosed payment upon selection of an Xtend variant, plus clinical development milestone payments and royalties on product sales.

With its new agreement, Merck is among numerous biopharma giants in accessing Xencor’s suite of antibody Fc domains to improve antibody-drug candidates for traits that include sustained half-life and/or potency. Xencor has entered into partnerships with Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, CSL, Janssen R&D, MorphoSys, Pfizer, and Human Genome Sciences, acquired last year by GlaxoSmithKline.

Xencor has numerous XmAb® antibody drug candidates in clinical stages, including XmAb®5871 targeting CD32b and CD19 for autoimmune diseases, and an anti-CD30 candidate XmAb®2513 for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The company has licensed another drug candidate, MOR00208 (formerly XmAb5574), exclusively to MorphoSys for cancer and other indications.

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