2023-04-17| Partnerships

Pyramid Biosciences Bets $1B on Oncology Drug

by Nai Ye Yeat
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The privately-held US biotech Pyramid Biosciences has entered into an exclusive license agreement with China’s GeneQuantum Healthcare to develop and commercialize GQ1010, a potential best-in-class antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) targeting trophoblast cell surface antigen 2 (TROP2).  

Under the terms of the agreement, Pyramid gains exclusive rights to develop and commercialize GQ-1010 globally, excluding greater China (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan). In exchange, GeneQuantum will receive an up-front payment of $20 million and up to an additional $1 billion in milestone payments. 

Related article: Pfizer Acquires Seagen for $43 Billion to Capture Leading Position in Oncology 

ADCs, the Next Era of Targeted Therapy

ADCs are a class of drugs designed as a targeted therapy to treat various diseases, but their application is only limited to cancer currently. They are complex molecules consisting of an antibody linked to a biologically active cytotoxic payload or drug. 

Unlike traditional chemotherapy which is often associated with poor therapeutic response and substantial toxicities to normal healthy tissues, antibody-drug conjugates target and kill tumor cells without harming the healthy cells, by integrating the antigen specificity of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) with antibody fragments. 

To date, more than 10 ADCs have been approved by the FDA, and around a hundred of its kind are under worldwide clinical development.

Key to Expand Oncology Drug Portfolio

GQ1010 utilizes a unique site-specific conjugation technology and incorporates a novel linker payload which may lead to improved stability, safety, and potency of the ADC. Its target, TROP2, is a cell surface glycoprotein highly expressed in a variety of neoplasms, including breast, lung, pancreatic, ovarian, and prostate cancer, and plays a key role in tumor cell proliferation.

GQ1010 is scheduled to enter a first-in-human trial within the next 12 months, providing that the preclinical data has reported a broader therapeutic margin of the drug compared to more advanced TROP2 ADCs.  

If ultimately approved, the drug would rival Gilead’s first-in-class Trop-2-directed antibody-drug conjugate, Trodelvy, that the drugmaker picked up in its $21 billion buyout of Immunomedics in 2020. Trodelvy is currently approved for certain breast cancer treatments as well as advanced urothelial cancer.

Despite the fierce competition in the ADCs market, both companies are optimistic that their partnership will rapidly advance the worldwide development of GQ1010, and help patients overcome their cancer with the success of delivering transformative medicines to those in need.

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