Elpiscience Biopharma, Ltd. and Astellas Pharma Inc. announced a research collaboration and license agreement for novel bi-specific macrophage engagers, ES019 and another program. The two companies will collaboratively conduct early-stage research for these two programs. Elpiscience will also grant Astellas the right to add up to two additional programs to be included in the collaboration. If Astellas exercises its option, Elpiscience will grant Astellas the exclusive right to further research, develop, manufacture and commercialize the products for each program.
Elpiscience is a privately held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing next-generation immuno-oncology therapies for cancer patients worldwide. Their Bispecific Macrophage Engager Platform (BiME) is anti-tumor associated antigen (TAA) and anti-signal-regulatory protein α (SIRPα) bispecific antibody-based platform to activate Tumor Associated Macrophage (TAM) phagocytosis killing towards specific TAA expressing tumor cells. BiME shows highly potent phagocytosis due to engagement of the Fc receptor on TAM and the tumor cells via TAA and SIRPα, and blockade of CD47-SIRPα “don’t eat me” signaling1. This platform is utilized for ES019, an anti-PD-L1/SIRPα bispecific antibody.
TAMs are the most abundant leukocytes within Tumor Microenvironment (TME) of many cancer types and correlate with poor prognosis and immune checkpoint inhibitor resistance. The programs emerging from the BiME platform are expected to offer new options for cancer patients who do not respond to existing cancer immunotherapies, by modulating TAM and reprogramming the TME status.
Elpiscience will receive up to US $37 million, including the upfront payment and license option fees. In addition, Elpiscience will receive research funding from Astellas to advance the programs. After Astellas exercises its option, Elpiscience is eligible to potentially receive more than US $1.7 billion in payments for the achievement of future development, regulatory, and commercial milestones. Elpiscience is also eligible to receive single-digit to lower double-digit percent royalty payments on net sales for licensed products per each program.
Darren Ji, MD, Ph.D., Chairman and CEO, Elpiscience
“We are pleased to collaborate with Astellas, a world leader of innovative medicines, on developing game-changing therapies for cancer. BiME innovated at Elpiscience represents a paradigm shift from the conventional cell engagers dominated by T cells. The therapeutic molecules generated from the BiME platform have the potential of changing the clinical practice for tumors where tumor-associated macrophages are highly abundant, and no effective therapies are available. We look forward to working with Astellas to bring these exciting sciences to the bedside of global patients.”
Adam Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer, Astellas
“Astellas has a strong commitment to developing innovative cancer treatments and have positioned Immuno-Oncology as one of the Primary Focuses of our R&D strategy2. Elpiscience has outstanding expertise in developing next generation immunotherapies. We hope this collaboration will bring synergies between the two companies’ cutting-edge research and will ultimately lead to the development of new treatments for patients with cancer.”
“don’t eat me” signaling: CD47 is a protein that emits a “don’t eat me” signal. When CD47 on tumor cells bind with SIRPα on macrophages, the macrophages suppress phagocytosis.
2 Astellas’ R&D strategy: Astellas has established a Focus Area Approach for its research and development strategy.