18 October 2013Big Pharma

AstraZeneca adds to cancer drug portfolio

UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced on October 15 that its biologics R&D subsidiary MedImmune had acquired cancer drug maker Spirogen.

Spirogen develops small molecules and DNA sequence targeted agents in its cancer treatments.

The deal strengthens AstraZeneca’s oncology portfolio, which it described as a “core therapy area”, with MedImmune developing a portfolio focused on two areas, antibody-drug conjugates and immune-mediated cancer therapy.

Antibody-drug conjugates are potent cancer drug technologies that offer selective targeting of cancer cells.

Spirogen’s pyrrolobenzodiazepine technology allows targeted delivery of cancer drugs to tumour cells by attaching a highly potent cytotoxic agent, or ‘warhead’, to cancer-targeting antibodies using biodegradable ‘linkers’. This method of drug delivery minimises toxicity to the patient.

MedImmune will acquire 100 percent of Spirogen’s shares for $200 million, which could rise to $240 million depending on the companies reaching “predetermined development milestones”.

MedImmune has also agreed with Swiss drug development company ADC Therapeutics to develop two of ADC’s antibody-drug conjugate programmes. It will make an equity investment with ADC, which has an existing licensing agreement with Spirogen.

“The … technologies developed by Spirogen and ADC Therapeutics complement MedImmune’s innovative antibody engineering capabilities, enabling us to accelerate antibody-drug conjugates into the clinic,” said executive vice president of MedImmune Bahija Jallal.

Chris Martin, chief executive of Spirogen, said: “We believe that pyrrolobenzodiazepine-armed antibody-drug conjugates will emerge as a critical component in the next generation of cancer biologics with the potential to make a difference for oncologists and their patients.

“We look forward to combining our world-class capabilities in this area with MedImmune’s ability to develop this exciting class of oncology drugs.”

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