Molecular Templates has partnered with Takeda to develop engineered toxin bodies (EBTs) — a next-generation immuno-oncology therapy that delivers toxic payloads to cancer cells — targeting the CD38 molecule as a potential treatment for multiple myeloma.
The lead candidate is the result of a discovery from a previous collaboration study between the two companies.
“This collaboration builds on Takeda’s deep history and commitment to the study of blood cancers, including multiple myeloma,” Philip Rowlands, PhD, head of the Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit at Takeda, said in a press release.
“Throughout our research collaboration with Molecular Templates, we have seen the promise of its ETB platform for the discovery and development of new therapies. As we expand our relationship … our hope is to bring forth new and important treatment options for patients,” Rowlands added.
The new compound works by specifically recognizing multiple myeloma cells that express high levels of the CD38 protein at their surface. Once bound to cancer cells, the CD38-targeted ETBs is designed to then deliver a modified version of a bacterial toxin that destroys the ribosomes — cell machinery components responsible for the production of proteins — of these cells through an irreversible enzymatic reaction, ultimately leading to cancer cell’s death.
Unlike other types of CD38-targeted therapies, ETBs have the advantage of not relying on the immune system to be effective. As a result, they have the potential to elicit broader and deeper responses.
EBTs can also deliver specific proteins to cancer cells that function as flags to the immune system, helping the body recognize and eliminate the cancer more effectively.
Under the agreement, Takeda will pay an initial $30 million payment. If Molecular Templates agrees to co-develop the compound, it will be eligible to receive development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments up to $632.5 million. If Molecular Templates does not agree with co-development and opts out, it will receive $337.5 million. Both companies also agreed to share the compound’s development cost equally.
“We have worked closely with Takeda’s scientific team since October 2016 to develop CD38-targeted ETBs with substantial improvements over our own internal program, MT-4019,” said Eric Poma, PhD, Molecular Templates’ chief executive and scientific officer.
“Takeda’s expertise in multiple myeloma and strong antibody capabilities allowed us to develop CD38-targeted ETBs that, of the ones tested to date, are the most potent ETBs we have created with our platform,” Poma added. “We look forward to moving this program into the clinic.”