Tubulis and BMS team up to develop antibody-drug conjugates for cancer
Published: Apr 21, 2023
By Alejandra Manjarrez
German biotech Tubulis announced on Thursday a strategic license agreement with the global pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) to develop safer and more effective antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) to treat solid tumors in cancer patients.
As part of this agreement, Tubulis is expected to garner an upfront payment of $22.75 million, with the potential to receive more than $1 billion of future product development, regulatory, and commercialization payments, in addition to royalties. The deal will offer BMS access to Tubulis’s Tubutecan payloads and its P5 conjugation platform that the company says, based on preclinical analyses, will likely facilitate the development of more stable and safer ADCs.
After 20 years of trials and errors, the ADC field is now “experiencing a great momentum,” Tubulis CEO Dominik Schumacher told BioSpace, “but obviously, there are still limitations, and we want to tackle these.”
A key limitation, he added, is that these molecules have toxicities unrelated to the target and the selected antibody but limit the maximum drug dose that can be administered to patients. Schumacher explained that Tubulis’s platform had been shown to reduce these toxicities in a preclinical setting, and the company now plans to test these results in clinical environments.
The overall goal of Tubulis, now also in collaboration with BMS, is “to have more flexibility on how we treat the patients and how we actually can ensure that there’s a long-lasting efficacy and also long-lasting treatment opportunities for these patients to really ensure that we have meaningful benefit for them,” Schumacher said.
If the companies successfully reduce the toxicities associated with these drugs, that widens the therapeutic window, Naresh Jain, president and CEO of NJ Bio, told BioSpace, adding that the clinical tests will be pivotal. “It’s very hard to analyze the toxicity unless [this is tested] in Phase II and Phase III clinical trials.”
Small companies, in general, do not have the resources for this type of testing, he continued, hence the partnership with BMS.
“So definitely, it is great news for Tubulis and also [for] the ADC community,” he said.
Moreover, Jain said he thinks the ADC space “is not crowded at all, and the more, the merrier.” He added that he predicts the field will continue to expand in the next five to six years because these drug molecules can be selectively targeted to the tumor.
“We have a proof of concept and now there are hundreds of millions of targets we can go after, so this field is only going to grow.”
BMS, which is the first company partnering with Tubulis to use these tools, will have exclusive access to the targets the global company decides to work on but not to the platform, according to the deal. Ingo Lehrke, CBO at Tubulis, told BioSpace that the company has been very selective about whom to partner with while staying focused on its pipeline.
He added that BMS will be a good partner because it is “the number one oncology company [and] the biggest in sales of oncology products.” Ultimately, he said, the Tubulis team wants to use its tools to help cancer patients, and this deal increases the probability that Tubulis’s technology will achieve that goal.
“Tubulis has extensive experience in the design of novel and differentiated ADC . . . technologies that, when combined with select BMS antibodies, can potentially result in more effective treatments for patients,” a BMS spokesperson wrote in an email to BioSpace. “The partnership will allow BMS to advance its select antibody therapies further to potentially bring new safe and effective therapeutics to patients.”