Vancouver-headquartered Zymeworks has signed a new license agreement with longtime partner Merck granting the pharmaceutical  giant the right to develop additional multispecific antibody therapeutic candidates using Zymeworks’ Azymetric™ and EFECT™ platforms.

Under the terms of the agreement, Zymeworks will provide Merck a worldwide, royalty-bearing license to research, develop and commercialize up to three new multispecific antibodies toward Merck’s therapeutic targets.

In exchange, Zymeworks will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and if each of the three programs yield an approved product, Zymeworks is eligible to receive up to US$411 million in option exercise fees and clinical development and regulatory approval milestone payments and up to US$480 million in commercial milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties on worldwide sales.

Merck will also receive a worldwide, royalty-bearing license to research, develop and commercialize up to three multispecific antibodies in the animal health field in exchange for additional milestone payments and tiered royalties.

Zymeworks is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing multifunctional biotherapeutics.

“It is an exciting time for the field of bispecific and multispecific therapeutics with candidates like ZW25 demonstrating great promise in clinical trials,” said Ali Tehrani, Ph.D., President and CEO of Zymeworks.

“We are very proud that oncology leaders like Merck recognize the value of our therapeutic platforms and continue to return for expanded access to our technology. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Merck as they advance additional multispecific candidates towards the clinic.”

Zymeworks and Merck began working together in 2011 to develop bispecific antibodies in a collaboration that was expanded in 2014. The new agreement does not impact the original agreement.