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How F-star could earn milestone payments of up to $447m after Denali Therapeutics deal

By Paul Brackley

John Haurum, CEO of F-star
John Haurum, CEO of F-star

F-star Gamma acquired early by San Francisco firm for $24m

F-star is based on Babraham Research Campus
F-star is based on Babraham Research Campus

F-star has secured an upfront payment of $24million – and is in line for potential milestone payments worth up to $447million – after Denali Therapeutics chose to exercise its early option to acquire F-star Gamma.

The biopharmaceutical firm, based on Babraham Research Campus, is developing novel bispecific antibodies – drugs that can have two targets. It wraps up its drugs programmes into new entities – asset-centric vehicles – that can be sold off without negatively impacting the rest of the pipeline.

F-star has been collaborating with San Francisco-based Denali since August 2016 to develop Fcabs – an antibody fragment that can be used as a building block – that enable biologic therapies to be delivered across the blood-brain barrier.

Denali now has the exclusive rights to these Fcabs, for which it is paying $24million plus any net cash held by F-star Gamma. Further payments of up to $447m are contingent on the achievement of future milestones.

Scientists at work at F-star
Scientists at work at F-star

Denali has also exercised its right to nominate the two remaining Fcab targets under the original deal.

John Haurum, CEO of F-star, said: “Denali’s early exercise of its option to acquire F-star Gamma is testimony to the progress of our collaboration. We are delighted that our Modular Antibody Technology is being applied to address significant unmet needs beyond F-star’s therapeutic focus in immuno-oncology.”

Ryan Watts, CEO of Denali Therapeutics, said: “Our decision to exercise the option to buy F-star Gamma reflects the progress in our collaboration with F-star and the generation of data showing that our proprietary transport vehicle platform technology will enable us to deliver biologics across the blood brain barrier (BBB) and into the brain. Furthermore, the expanded collaboration allows us to deepen and broaden our research efforts supporting our BBB platform technology.”

F-star said it will invest its proceeds from the transaction in progressing its proprietary pipeline of first-in-class immuno-oncology bispecific antibodies through clinical development.

F-star is developing bispecific antibodies
F-star is developing bispecific antibodies

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