Eli Lilly and Company has extended its existing licensing and collaboration agreement with Zymeworks for new bi-specific immunotherapies.

The collaboration is focused on development of an undisclosed number of new bi-specific antibody therapeutics using Zymeworks’ Azymetric platform.

As part of the deal, Zymeworks is eligible to receive an unspecified up-front payment in the form of an equity investment, as well as the majority of the $375m in potential rewards is tied development and commercial milestones.

The initial up-front payment, which Zymeworks will receive in the form of an equity investment, will strengthen the strategic relationship between the two firms.

"The collaboration is focused on the development of an undisclosed number of new bi-specific antibody therapeutics using Zymeworks’ Azymetric platform."

The majority of financial terms include potential milestone payments contingent on the achievement of certain development and commercial milestone events mainly focused on the US, Japan and global sales.

Lilly Oncology senior vice-president and president Sue Mahony: "We are pleased to expand our collaboration with Zymeworks to develop potential immunotherapies for those fighting cancer around the world.

"There are many targets involved in the controlled activation and redirection of the immune system and we know that immunotherapies will not be a one-size-fits-all treatment.

"In addition to immunotherapy programs, Lilly has a robust oncology pipeline that includes both small molecules and monoclonal antibodies, which are being studied to treat a wide range of cancers."

According to the company, bi-specific antibodies have the potential to provide improved outcomes for patients by simultaneously targeting two proteins resulting in additive or synergistic responses.

Zymeworks president and CEO Ali Tehrani said: "This expansion of our strategic collaboration speaks to the robustness of our Azymetric™ platform for the development of innovative biologics.

"Lilly’s investment in Zymeworks also highlights the strength and promise of our oncology-focused pipeline candidates in helping patients with significant unmet medical needs."

The collaboration with Zymeworks adds to Lilly’s bi-specific antibody and immunotherapy research portfolio.

In July, Lilly entered into an agreement with Immunocore to jointly discover and develop new cancer therapies.