Roche will pay Amunix Pharmaceuticals $40 million up front to use the company’s proprietary technology to discover and develop new drugs outside of the oncology space.
The clinically validated platform—XTEN—is a proprietary unstructured polypeptide, which when attached to molecules, can extend the half-life of drugs with low associated immunogenicity, according to Amunix.
As per the agreement, Mountain View, CA-based Amunix could potentially receive up to $1.5 billion in development and sales milestones. Specific disease targets were not disclosed.
Amunix CEO Angie You says the cash for IP deal will allow Amunix to focus on advancing its internal pipeline as well as its new pro-XTEN platform, which enables selective activation of potent cancer therapies.
“In cases like what we’re doing in our oncology program where we’re focusing on promising but potent and toxic molecules, we wanted to make sure we only get action in the tumor and not outside—to selectively activate in the tumor and extend the half-life of the drug,” You tells Xconomy.
“We’re already generating some pretty compelling preclinical data to show we can really improve the safety of these drugs,” she adds.
Amunix is applying the technology to cytokines, proteins that are released by cells that play a role in the interactions and communications between cells.
“People have been trying to apply [cytokines] to cancer but because they are so potent they are also very toxic, so it’s a perfect application for our approach,” You explains.
The company also is applying the technology to T cell engagers, which You says “co-opt” T cells and direct them toward a patient’s tumor. They are also very toxic, she says, as they often time show activity outside the tumor. “That is the fundamental problem we are solving,” adds You.
Amunix has existed for nearly 14 years, originally focused on technology licensing. Over this time, it has worked with several pharmaceutical companies, large and small. These include a licensing agreement last year with Merck (NYSE: MRK) to develop therapeutics against an undisclosed target. It also inked a licensing agreement in 2018 with Celgene, which is now owned by BMS (NYSE: BMY), in addition to a research and development collaboration with Genentech and a licensing agreement with Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) in 2017.