Pfizer hits up four biotechs in $46m R&D collaboration strategy

By Dan Stanton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStock
Image: iStock

Related tags: Investment, Pfizer

Pfizer has invested $46m in separate collaborations with four R&D companies specialising in developing ADCs, immuno-oncology candidates and gene-therapies.

The $46m (€42m) is the first investment under Pfizer’s R&D equity investment strategy, intended help the firm access early-stage scientific innovations.

The equity will be used in collaboration with Conditionally Active Biologics (CAB) developer BioAtla, gene therapy developer 4D Molecular Therapeutics, immuno-oncology product developer NextCure, and Cortexyme, a firm testing potential therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases in preclinical studies.

At this point we have not disclosed specific investments or terms,”​ Uwe Schoenbeck, Pfizer’s Chief Scientific Officer of external R&D told

“Pfizer investments include not only equity but also further R&D investments in form of upfront payments or license to Pfizer IP. However, equity was key to all four investments, which was in the range of low single to double digits.”

Testing the waters?

Such an R&D investment strategy gives the Big Biopharma company an opportunity to have an interest in potential blockbusters at an early stage, but also gives its partners access to Pfizer’s own expertise and “critical technical and drug development capabilities,” ​on top of the equity, he continued

We asked if such deals were ‘testing the waters’ across a number of potentially lucrative areas, without Pfizer fully committing to any.

“Though we would not exclude future investments to help us ‘test the waters’, all four of the current investments are actually fully aligned with Pfizer’s R&D strategy and fall within core areas of interest, such as ADCs or Immuno-Oncology and Gene-therapy related capabilities, areas in which Pfizer already has significant commitments and can provide value as a partner.”

Sharing a CAB

One of the companies benefitting from the investment is BioAtla, which is developing CAB antibodies which are activated by specific microenvironments within the body to be used as the payload delivery vehicle in antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs).

The deal with BioAtla was first announced last month​, but Schoenbeck told us its investment would help Pfizer move forward in the area of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs).

“CAB-ADC antibodies aim to address the inherent limitations of current ADC antibody technology by actively binding to antigens expressed on tumor tissue-resident cancer cells, but not to the same antigens expressed on normal cells in non-diseased tissues,”​ he said.

“If successful, this approach would allow the preferential targeting of tumor tissues by ADCs, thereby increasing the efficacy-safety ratios of CAB-ADCs relative to their conventional counterparts.”

Pfizer has seen regulatory success in the ADC sector with its leukemia drug Mylotarg (gemtuzumab ozogamicin) approved in 2000. However, it was voluntarily withdrawn in 2010​ after several safety concerns were flagged up.

The use of CAB antibodies as payload delivery vehicles could dramatically increase the number of tumor-associated antigens that are addressable with ADC technology, a key capability in Pfizer’s oncology pipeline.”

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