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(Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline signed a collaboration agreement with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to develop new drugs that promote a patient's immune system to attack cancer based on discoveries by Anderson researchers.
Anderson, one of the world's premier cancer research and treatment centers, announced the agreement on Friday. Under terms of the deal, it will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and research funding from Glaxo and could earn $335 million plus royalties if the collaboration leads to approved medicines.
The British drugmaker will get exclusive worldwide rights to develop and sell antibodies that activate OX40, a protein on the surface of T cells - a type of white blood cell that is an important component of the body's immune system. The antibodies were discovered by Dr. Yong-Jun Liu and colleagues when he was professor and chair of MD Anderson's Department of Immunology.
"This agreement is ... a testament to the vision shared by GSK and MD Anderson that successful clinical development of oncology drugs requires seamless integration of drug development expertise and deep biological knowledge," Dr Giulio Draetta, director of Anderson's Institute for Applied Cancer Science, said in a statement.
So-called immunotherapies, which help the body's immune system to more efficiently attack cancer, are seen as an important new frontier is the fight against the disease in its many forms. Several companies are developing promising cancer immunotherapies.
Any drugs that come out of the Glaxo-Anderson collaboration would be several years away as more preclinical testing is needed before the OX40 approach will be tested in human subjects, MD Anderson said.
Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Nick Zieminski