Elpiscience Biopharma has signed a research partnership and licence agreement with Astellas Pharma for two new bispecific macrophage engagers, ES019 and another undisclosed programme, for cancer.

The parties will jointly carry out the early-stage research for the programmes. 

As per the agreement, Astellas holds the right to include up to two more programmes in the partnership. 

On Astellas exercising its option, the company will gain the sole right from Elpiscience to carry out further research, development, production and marketing of the products for each programme. 

Elpiscience is eligible for royalty payments on net sales for licensed products per each programme, ranging from single-digit to lower double-digit percentages.

The company is also entitled to receive upfront payment and license option fees of up to $37m from Astellas, along with research funding to progress the development of the programmes. 

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By GlobalData

Post-option exercise by Astellas, Elpiscience will receive milestone payments of over $1.7bn on meeting development, regulatory, and commercial goals in the future, apart from royalties on net product sales.

Elpiscience focuses on the development of immuno-oncology treatments for cancer. 

Its Bispecific Macrophage Engager Platform (BiME) is designed to stimulate Tumor Associated Macrophage (TAM) phagocytosis targeting specific tumour cells that express anti-tumour associated antigen (TAA). 

ES019, an anti-PD-L1/SIRPα bispecific antibody, leverages this platform. 

Elpiscience chairman and CEO Darren Ji said: “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 tumours where tumour-associated macrophages are highly abundant, and no effective therapies are available.”

The latest development comes after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval for Astellas Pharma’s azole antifungal drug Cresemba (isavuconazonium sulfate) to treat children with invasive aspergillosis (IA) and invasive mucormycosis (IM).