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BMS Initiates Global Partnership to Advance Eisai’s First ADC to Market
The global antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) market is estimated to exceed $13 billion in 2026. The huge business potential has driven top biopharma companies to make ample investments and strategic collaborations with an aim to capture the Asian and European markets as well. AstraZeneca’s two high-profile collaborations with Daiichi Sankyo for Enhertu and DS-1062 for a whopping $3.5 billion and $6 billion, respectively, are notable examples.
In the same vein, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced a global partnership with Japanese pharma Eisai recently for the co-development and co-commercialization of the latter’s experimental ADC candidate MORAb-202 for treating solid tumors.
“This global collaboration with Eisai is an important strategic fit for Bristol Myers Squibb as it extends our leading position in oncology with a differentiated asset that complements our broad, solid tumor portfolio and leverages our deep internal development expertise,” said Giovanni Caforio, Board Chair, and CEO of BMS. “We look forward to collaborating with Eisai as we work to bring this potential treatment option to patients in need as soon as possible.”
The $3.1 billion deal is inclusive of an upfront payment of $650 million, of which $200 million will be set aside for Eisai’s R&D expenditure. The rest of the $2.45 billion will be paid on successful attainment of regulatory and commercial milestones.
As per the terms, the duo will advance MORAb-202 in collaboration territories that include the US, Canada, Russia, the UK, and the European Union. In the east, the scope of their collaboration encompasses Japan, China, and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. While both partners will share the profits and costs of doing business in the collaboration territories, BMS will pay royalties to Eisai for sales outside of it.
This is not the first time the companies are coming together for a collaboration. In December 2018, BMS signed a multi-year cooperation agreement with H3 Biomedicine, a precision medicine subsidiary of Eisai. The research pact aimed to use H3’s RNA splicing platform and expertise in RNA self-regulation to develop innovative cancer immunotherapies.
MORAb-202 – Eisai’s First ADC
MORAb-202 is an investigational ADC composed of Eisai’s two in-house anticancer agents; Eribulin, a microtubule inhibitor, and farletuzumab, a humanized IgG1 monoclonal antibody bound via an enzyme cleavable linker. Farletuzumab targets solid tumors that express the folate receptor alpha (FRα). When MORAb-202 enters those tumors, the linker is enzymatically cleaved, and eribulin releases from the ADC to perform its antitumor activity.
“MORAb-202 combines Eisai’s in-house discovered antibody and payload using the company’s advanced chemistry capabilities,” said Haruo Naito, CEO at Eisai. “It is characterized by its payload of eribulin, which is a product of our modern synthetic organic chemistry that has already made contributions to patients with breast cancer and soft tissue sarcoma. Our collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb will accelerate the development of MORAb-202 with the goal of bringing a potentially impactful treatment option to patients globally.”
Currently, the drug MORAb-202 is evaluated to treat FRα-positive solid tumors of cervical, ovarian, lung, and breast cancers. MORAb-202 is undergoing Phase 1 clinical trials in Japan and Phase 1/2 clinical trials in the US. Eisai plans to obtain regulatory approval in 2022.
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