Exelixis inks deal with WuXi Bio as it advances ADC ambition

We really like the ADC space,” says Exelixis as it licenses a panel of monoclonal antibodies from WuXi Biologics.

Californian pharma firm Exelixis has paid what it describes as a “modest” upfront payment to Chinese drugmaker WuXi Biologics for the exclusive license of a panel of monoclonal antibodies to a preclinically validated target for the development of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), bispecifics, and other biologic applications.

“Our agreement with WuXi Bio enhances our growing biotherapeutics portfolio by providing an approach to a preclinically validated target that has already shown early clinical potential in cancer,” CSO Peter Lamb said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to building on WuXi Bio’s significant technical foundation and applying our own expertise as we bring this promising program into the Exelixis discovery organization.”

Exelixis has seen commercial success in small molecule drug discovery and development, specifically the firm has achieved commercialization with the cancer drugs Cabometyx (cabozantinib), Cometriq (cabozantinib), and Cotelic (cobimetinib).

Now the firm is looking to emulate such success in the biologics space, with the WuXi partnership coming off the bat of several deals for Exelixis in the ADC space. Last year, the firm paid NBE-Therapeutics $25 million to develop ADCs using NBE’s conjugation and novel anthracycline-based payload platform, while simultaneously teamed with contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Catalent for use of its Redwood Bioscience subsidiary’s SMARTag site-specific bioconjugation technology.

“We really like the ADC space… It’s the ultimate Venn diagram view of chemistry and biology kind of merging together,” CEO Mike Morrissey told investors at the 2021 Barclays Global Healthcare Conference this week.

He added this is a natural extension of Exelixis’ legacy, and the firm’s commitment to ADCs is full.

“We’re not going to just dabble and do a little bit here or there and see what happens. If we’re convinced and we have conviction in a technology and our ability to navigate and bring in new science then we’re going to go in strong with the right level of resource and the right level of both financial and human capital to be able to move the needle there.”

WuXi Bio will be eligible for development and commercialization milestones for any potential products commercialized from the deal.