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Antibody Firm Xencor Exclusively Licenses Xtend Antibody Technology to Merck

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Xencor said this week it has exclusively licensed its Xtend antibody technology to Merck.

The drug firm will use the technology to develop antibodies against an undisclosed drug target.

In return, Merck will pay Xencor a $3 million upfront license fee. It also will pay Xencor an undisclosed amount if it selects an Xtend variant, and pay undisclosed amounts in clinical development milestones and royalties on product sales.

Based in Monrovia, Calif., Xencor has engineered Fc domains to enhance the in vivo half-lives of monoclonal antibodies. The company's proprietary antibody technologies, called XmAb, are a suite of proprietary antibody Fc domains and antibody engineering tools.

Fc domains are a modular and reuseable suite of antibody components that are developed by identifying and engineering antibody Fc regions for select amino acid changes, according to Xencor's website.

Optimizing Fc domains with proprietary Fv engineering tools create a wide range of antigen affinities including high-affinity, humanized antibodies. As a result, the company can address all aspects of antibody candidate discovery, its website said.

The Merck deal is the second that Xencor announced this month involving a major pharmaceutical firm. Earlier, it announced a licensing and evaluation agreement with Pfizer, which will apply Xencor's Xtend and XmAb ADCC-enhancing technology to the pharma's antibody drug candidates [See PM 03/05/09].

Late last month, Xencor announced a partnership allowing CSL access to its XmAB technology for the enhancement of the ADCC effector function of CSL's therapeutic antibodies [See PM 02/26/09].

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