Astellas Pharma has linked up with Ambrx of the USA to discover and develop antibody drug conjugates.

Under the terms of the deal, Ambrx will bank an upfront fee of $15 million and is eligible for $285 million in R&D, regulatory and sales-based milestones, plus royalties. Astellas will receive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise ADCs for oncology._

Specifically, Ambrx will use site-specific conjugation technology in addition to proprietary linkers and payloads to produce ADCs. The deal has been done with Astellas' Agensys unit in the USA and its head David Stover noted that his division "has significant experience with ADCs as oncology therapeutics and is looking to further expand its capabilities in this area".

Ambrx chief executive Lawson Macartney said that "we look forward to developing these therapeutics while also advancing our broad pipeline of partnered and wholly owned therapeutic candidates with best-in-class conjugation". The company already has a number of collaborations in place with big pharma and its partners include Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly.