Takeda and Crescendo Biologics have signed a cancer drug development pact potentially worth nearly $800 million.

The companies announced a global, strategic, multi-target collaboration and license agreement for the discovery, development and commercialisation of Humabody-based therapeutics for cancer indications with a high unmet medical need.

Humabody products are a novel class of small, robust and potent protein therapeutics with different pharmacological properties to antibodies. They are small and can rapidly penetrate and accumulate in tissue/tumours whilst clearing quickly from circulation to minimise systemic toxicity, while their modular configuration means that they can be readily modified and customised, according to Crescendo's website.

Under the deal, the UK biopharma will use its proprietary transgenic platform and engineering expertise to discover and optimally configure Humabody candidates against multiple targets selected by Takeda.

In return, Crescendo stands to receive up to $36 million, in a combination of an upfront payment, investment, research funding and preclinical milestones.

However, Takeda has the right to develop and commercialise Humabody-based therapeutics resulting from the collaboration, and this could bring Crescendo and extra $754 million in further clinical development, regulatory and sales-based milestone payments, as well as royalties if any product makes it to market.

"We see significant potential in Crescendo and its innovative technology to develop unique, small and customisable Humabody-based therapeutics," said Andrew Plump, chief medical and scientific Officer, Takeda. "Collaborations are critical to helping us achieve our aspiration of curing cancer".

Crescendo chief executive Dr Peter Pack said the deal "represents a significant step forward" for the firm, and "provides validation of our transgenic platform and our capabilities to rapidly assemble and configure small, differentiated Humabody-based therapeutics, opening routes to novel biology".