Bayer has entered into an antibody-drug conjugate collaboration with Seattle Genetics in a deal that could be worth $520 million to the US biotech.

Specifically, the German major will get worldwide rights to use Seattle Genetics' auristatin-based ADC technology with antibodies to several oncology targets. The latter is a leader in the field of ADCs, monoclonal antibodies which deliver cytotoxic agents to tumour cells, an approach which spare non-targeted cells and thus reduce many of the toxic effects of chemotherapy.

Cashwise, Bayer is paying upfront payment and option exercise fees of up to $20 million and up to another $500 million upon achievement of certain development and commercialisation milestones, plus royalties. Andreas Busch, head of global drug discovery, said ADCs "are promising approaches in oncology which can attack tumor cells in a much more targeted way for cancer patients, such that healthy cells are less severely affected".

He added that ADCs "are one of our focus areas in oncology research and we are looking forward to strengthening our portfolio in this area of personalised medicine through the collaboration". Natasha Hernday, head of corporate development at Seattle Genetics, said that this deal, "along with the more than 15 ADCs in clinical development using our technology", reinforces the company's leadership position in the field.

She added that "were have the potential to receive more than $3.5 billion in future milestones plus royalties from these strategic alliances.” Seattle Genetics already markets an ADC, the lymphoma drug Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin) and its partners include AbbVie, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer.