HONG KONG - South Korean biopharma Legochem Biosciences Inc. has partnered with the U.K.’s Iksuda Therapeutics Ltd. to develop oncological antibody-drug conjugates (ADC). Under the global research collaboration and license agreement, Legochem is set to rake in up to $407 million from development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments, as well as royalties on the sales of any resulting ADC products.

The Korean company is also entitled to a prearranged percentage of sublicense revenue should Iksuda sign a license agreement with other companies.

Iksuda gained certain rights to use Conjuall, Legochem’s linker and conjugation platform, as well as Legochem cancer-selectively activated payloads, to research, develop and commercialize targeted cancer therapeutics. The U.K. biotech also gained the rights to use the platform to develop therapeutics directed to up to three undisclosed targets.

The Conjuall platform creates ADCs by connecting antibodies, linkers and efficient toxin release technologies. Legochem began developing Conjuall between 2009 and 2010, completed the linker technology in 2010 and the toxin release technology eight years later.

“We plan to advance ADC products from this partnership to clinical stage as quickly as possible,” David Simpson, Iksuda CEO, said. “This collaboration will allow us to leverage LCB's next-generation linker and payload platform, and combining it with our expertise and capabilities in ADC development will enable success.”

Legochem CEO Yong-Zu Kim added, “Our goal is to demonstrate the competitiveness of Legochem Bio in human trials in an efficient way by applying our ADC platform to Iksuda’s pipelines.”

A Legochem source told BioWorld that the partnership with Iksuda came about via a member of its ADC network making the introductions a year ago. He further explained that Legochem chose the U.K. company as its partner because “many members of the Iksuda board members are ADC development experts, and this is an area we wish to improve in.”

It was not clear when Iksuda would begin developing the candidates.

Iksuda is not the only foreign company that will be using Conjuall. Legochem has also signed a similar deal with Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. in March 2019. The agreement was a follow-up from a January 2017 deal to explore the potential of next-generation ADC candidates using Conjuall.

At the time, Takeda and Roche Holding AG were the only two companies who had successfully commercialized ADC products, namely Roche's Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine) and Takeda's Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin).

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Newcastle, Iksuda develops ADC therapeutics targeted at difficult-to-treat cancers such as lung, ovarian, cervical, pancreatic and colorectal cancers. Formerly known as Glythera Ltd., the company changed its name to Iksuda in September 2018 to emphasize its transition from technology licensing to drug development.

Iksuda signed a licensing agreement with fellow British firm Femtogenix Ltd. in March 2019 to use the latter’s sequence-selective DNA-interactive payload molecules to advance the development of its lead ADC toward clinical trials.

Iksuda currently has four ADCs in its pipeline, with the IKS-01 folate receptor-targeting ADC at the preclinical stage. The remaining three solid tumor ADCs have yet to enter preclinical testing.

Daejeon-based Legochem was founded in May 2006. It is currently conducting phase I trials for LCB14-0110, a biosimilar of trastuzumab for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer. Legochem licensed rights to the drug for the greater China market to its partner Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd. in August 2015 and is currently working on finding global licensees, said the source.

There are five other ADCs in Legochem’s pipeline at the discovery stage. The Korean company is also developing antibiotics for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci in partnership with China’s Haihe Biopharma Co. Ltd. It has anticoagulant and antifibrotic candidates in phase II and phase I trials.

Legochem’s Korean stock (KOSDAQ:141080) shot up 12.46% to ₩54,600 (US$45) on April 16, two days after the agreement was signed. It was down 1.76% to ₩50,300 as markets closed on April 17.

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