Micrograph of Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)
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Sony Corporation and Astellas Pharma have signed an agreement to discover a novel antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) platform in oncology based on Sony’s unique polymeric material—the KIRAVIA Backbone, which is made using the same organic polymer technology incorporated in the company’s proprietary KIRAVIA dyesTM. Terms of the deal were not released.

This could be a key entrant in a red hot market, which is estimated will be worth almost $20B over the next few years. Just this spring, Pfizer, BioNTech, and BMS all dove deep into ADCs with big deals. Pfizer’s was the most notable, as the company shelled out $43B for Seagen.

“Sony’s life science business has accumulated substantial knowledge in the field of cell analysis,” said Katsunori Ogawa, Head of Life Science & Technology Business Unit at Sony Corporation. “Through this collaboration, Sony is striving to contribute to the medical and drug discovery fields and provide further social value by leveraging Sony’s technological capabilities in the development of anti-cancer drugs therapy, which are expected to grow.”

ADCs are designed to selectively deliver anti-cancer drugs that increase anti-cancer cell effect while reducing side effects.

The technology to create linkers that conjugates antibodies and treatments, is considered to be a key to development of these therapeutics. This collaborative research between Astellas and Sony leverages “the flexibility in design and resulting properties such as high capacity and solubility of KIRAVIA Backbone as a linker of ADC, to effectively deliver anti-cancer drugs to targeted cells in a stable manner, aiming to further enhance therapeutic efficacy by achieving high Drug-to-Antibody Ratio (DAR) etc.,” according to the press release.

The two companies jointly began exploratory research of new linker technology aimed at creating a new ADC platform in July 2022. Under this new agreement, Sony and Astellas will jointly develop and optimize a new ADC platform using the KIRAVIA Backbone as a linker. In addition, Astellas will conduct non-clinical trials of development candidates.

The KIRAVIA Backbone’s three-dimensional structure is programmed and polymerized using an automatic synthesizer. The company says it is highly stable, allows loading of multiple types of drugs, and improves water solubility and cleaving by reacting with intracellular enzymes.

Furthermore, in order to build a drug discovery platform not limited to ADCs, the two companies have agreed to continue discussions on expanding research partnerships to create new value by combining Sony’s cutting-edge technology with Astellas’ pharmaceutical capabilities.

“We are pleased to enter into a joint research agreement with Sony,” said Yoshitsugu Shitaka, PhD, CSO, Astellas Pharma.

He added that, “Astellas is working to create innovative drugs from a multifaceted perspective called the Focus Area approach, which identifies combinations of biology, therapeutic modality or technology and diseases with high unmet medical needs. The partnership will further strengthen our ability to utilize suitable modalities. It is our expectation that the collaboration will lead to the continuous creation of innovative drugs for patients around the world.”

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