Bayer has exercised its option under an agreement with US biotechnology company Micromet to develop a new antibody for the treatment of solid tumours.

Under the terms of the agreement, Bayer had an option until January 5 next year to licence a bispecific T-cell engager (BiTE) antibody targeting an undisclosed target. Taking up the option has triggered a 5 million euro payment to Micromet and the deal, which was originally signed at the beginning of 2009, could see the latter firm receive up to 285 million euros, plus double-digit royalties.

Micromet will be primarily responsible for the preclinical development of the BiTE antibody, and will collaborate with Bayer through the completion of Phase I trials, at which point the German company will assume full control. In addition, Micromet will be reimbursed for its R&D expenses.

Karl Ziegelbauer, head of oncology at Bayer Schering Pharma, said that "BiTE antibodies represent a promising approach to cancer therapy". He added that the company is “looking forward to developing a new treatment for patients with solid tumors and to further advance novel therapeutic options in our oncology portfolio”.

Betaferon OK in China
Meantime, Bayer has revealed that the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration has approved its multiple sclerosis blockbuster Betaferon (interferon beta-1b). The firm plans to launch the drug, which is available in more than 100 countries, in China by mid-2010.

The approval is based on established efficacy and safety data, along with findings from a single-arm study designed to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of Betaferon among Chinese patients with relapsing-remitting MS.