“A global pharmaceutical company is conducting a verification test on therapeutic delivery technologies (of four biotech firms). I’m sure we will beat the three other biotech firms and clinch a licensing deal.”
So said Jo Dae-woong, CEO of Cellivery Therapeutics, at a news conference in Yeouido, Seoul, Wednesday.
Since last year, the protein-based drug discovery company has been receiving a technology verification test by one of the three largest pharmaceutical companies – Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and Pfizer – to license out its therapeutic molecule systemic delivery technology (TSDT).
|Cellivery Therapeutics CEO Jo Dae-woong holds a news conference in Yeouido, Seoul, on Wednesday.|
The multinational company, whose name cannot be disclosed due to the confidentiality agreement, is reviewing platform technologies of four biotech firms, including Cellivery, to use a therapeutic delivery technology in new drug candidates for cancer including lung cancer and pancreatic cancer, according to the Korean company.
For the final selection, four companies have been applying their platform technologies to new drug candidates in experiments by a third-party contract research organization (CRO), picked by the global pharmaceutical firm, since October.
The verification test runs in three stages: production of cell-permeable antibody, verification of cell permeability, and verification of cell anticancer efficacy. The multinational will compare data of four companies and sign a deal with the one with the best results.
According to Jo, Cellivery earned successful outcomes in both the first and second stages. “We applied our TSDT platform and produced 60 cell-permeable antibodies. Among them, we selected 15 antibodies with the most outstanding performance and successfully verified their excellent cell permeability,” Jo said. The company completed the third stage partially and confirmed an anticancer effect in cancer cells in the last-stage test, he added.
To prove the technology more clearly, Cellivery also conducted its animal test applying its TSDT platform. The test results showed that the administration of the cell-permeable antibody suppressed tumors in an animal lung cancer model.
Based on these data, Jo said he was convinced to sign a licensing-out deal with the multinational firm. "I think we will be able to yield the best performance among the four companies in the verification test and finally conclude the licensing deal," he said.
A successful deal will lead to the multinational’s application of the platform technology to every new drug development. On top of the upfront payment, Cellivery could clinch massive licensing deals for each drug candidate in the future, Jo expected.
A similar case already exists. When Dicerna Pharmaceuticals licensed out RNAi platform technology to Eli Lilly in 2018, Lilly made $100 million upfront payment and purchased Dicerna’s stocks worth $100 million. For developing and commercializing milestones, Lilly will give Dicerna $350 million per drug candidate.
If Cellivery pulls off a successful licensing deal with the multinational company, the deal will be larger than that of Dicerna and Lilly, the company said.
“If TSDT is successfully transferred, we expect that we could sign a 500 billion won ($407.4 million) deal per drug candidate,” Jo said.
Jo went on to say that Cellivery and Takeda were jointly developing therapeutic agents for neuromotor diseases using TSDT platform technology. As the company was conducting tests in the U.S., the tests were not affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, he said.
After the company optimizes test protocols, it will conduct an efficacy test immediately, he added. If the final verification test gets completed successfully, Cellivery will be able to clinch a 1 trillion won licensing deal with Takeda, Jo said.
Cellivery’s core technology, TSDT, is a next-generation drug delivery system that enables proteins with large molecules to be transported to cells and tissues.
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