GlaxoSmithKline has linked up with the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center in a deal that could net the latter $335 million, plus royalties.

The aim of the collaboration is to develop new therapeutic antibodies that promote an immune system attack against cancer. MD Anderson is granting GSK exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise the antibodies that activate OX40, a protein on the surface of T cells.

The antibodies were discovered by Yong-Jun Liu, now chief scientific officer of the Baylor Research Institute, and colleagues when he was head of MD Anderson's department of immunology. He said that it is "gratifying to see MD Anderson and GSK take this important step towards translating a basic science discovery into a potential new therapy that can proceed to clinical trial".

MD Anderson, through its new Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS), will collaborate with GSK to conduct preclinical research on the antibodies. ICAS director Giulio Draetta said the unit was formed "to expedite the accurate translation of great science into drugs", adding that it is "a drug development engine with industry-seasoned scientists embedded in a comprehensive cancer centre, and as such is ideally suited for this type of collaboration".

MD Anderson will receive an undisclosed upfront fee and funding, as well as payments for reaching development, regulatory and commercial milestones.