Dong-A ST made headlines in December by exporting “DA-4501,” a candidate substance for MerTK inhibitor anticancer drug, to AbbVie Biotechnology at a maximum price of $525 million.
Not a few industry watchers might wonder _ so what’s the big deal?
The export amount may not appear to be big, but there are elements, which set this particular contract from most others, industry experts say.
First of all, although DA-4501 is a noble target – a substance with new, different mechanism from the existing ones – it is still at a screening stage and has just gone through in-vitro experiment.
DA-4501 is highly likely to be “first-in-class” drug,” but it will take at least more than a decade to be commercialized, making it difficult to be sure about its ultimate success. Nevertheless, the technology is significant enough, company officials say.
Two Dong-A executives – chief research and development officer Yoon Tae-young and senior vice president for overseas business Lee Chae-joon – explained about reasons for their successful contract, at a business forum last week.
According to these officials, they conducted the DA-4501 project in top secret with only six or seven core personnel knowing about it. “It was the first codenamed development in the company’s history,” Lee said.
The new substance had come to secure superior activation and selectivity incomparable to other drugs and verified its target mechanism through in=vitro, he added. The researchers also acquired sufficient data by proving anticancer effects and enhanced immunization from pre-clinical animal tests.
“We managed to make the contract despite low-keyed approach,” Lee said. “The key lied in the securing of plentiful data and picking right partnership.”
Dong-A ST contacted eight international pharmaceuticals besides AbbVie Biotechnology but found the company, a subsidiary of the U.S. biopharmaceutical giant AbbVie Inc., had most enthusiasm and understanding about MerTK inhibitor. Finally, AbbVie emerged as the successful importer, recognizing the potentials of the drug developed by the Korean company, even though it was at the screening stage, Yoon said.
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