Covagen has signed up Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp as a partner for its next-generation protein drugs in a deal that could net the privately-held Swiss firm over 112 million euros.

Under the terms of the agreement, Covagen will generate bispecific proteins known as 'fynomAbs' against two target pairs selected by Mitsubishi Tanabe and its Tanabe Research Laboratories arm. Cashwise, the Osaka-based group pay 4.0 millio euros and fund all research activities.

Upon achievement of certain research, development and regulatory milestones, Covagen will be entitled to receive payments of up to 108.25 million euros for fynomAbs against the first target pair as well as tiered royalties. Covagen noted that financial terms are "substantially similar for fynomAbs addressing the second target pair which TRL and Mitsubishi Tanabe have the option to select".

The Zurich-Schlieren-headquartered group noted that fynomers are small binding proteins "that can be engineered to bind to any antigen of interest". Because of their "excellent biophysical properties", they can be "readily fused to therapeutic proteins such as antibodies to create bispecific fynomAbs".

Covagen chief executive Julian Bertschinger said that "bispecific therapeutic compounds have enormous potential in the treatment of many types of diseases and this collaboration is an important validation of our pioneering work in this field". The company believes the drugs will address unmet medical needs in inflammatory diseases and cancer.