Private group Oxford Genome Sciences has entered into a pact with US biotechnology giant Amgen that aims to discover new antibodies for the treatment of cancer.

The companies plan to use Amgen’s XenoMouse technology (acquired through its purchase of Abgenix for $2.7 billion last year) to create fully-human monoclonal antibodies against novel targets identified through OGS’ unique discovery platform, the Oxford Genome Anatomy Project.

According to the firm, OGAP oncology is the largest cancer protein database in the world, holding proteomic data on 5,000 cancer membrane proteins combined with genomic and clinical information derived from human blood and cancer tissue studies. On the other hand, Abgenix’ XenoMouse technology enables the production of fully-human monoclonal antibodies in mice, thereby reducing the risk of rejection by the patient’s immune system, and the companies will be hoping that combing the power of their expertise will generate some promising candidates for cancer treatment.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it was revealed that the agreement covers up to six oncology programmes, of which Amgen has the right to select up to three with OGS keeping the rights to the others. The UK group will carry out initial pre-clinical assessment of each antibody lead generated by Amgen.

Alliance strategy
The Oxford-based company’s strategy is to use its unique discovery platform in alliances with antibody companies around the globe to develop its targets into novel therapies and diagnostics for cancer. It has already signed a string of collaborations including a second partnership with Medarex last September, allowing it access to the firm’s antibody technology to accelerate the development of its own cancer pipeline.

The partnership with Amgen puts OGS further along the path to becoming a product development company, leaving its roots as a purely target discovery based group well and truly behind, and marks “an important step in our ambition to become a key player in the field of therapeutic antibodies for the treatment of cancer,” said its chief executive, Dr Christian Rohlff.

“I am confident that by using our complementary expertise we will be able to develop a promising and valuable pipeline of antibodies,” he added.