* Paying $133.75 mln upfront, up to $355 mln in milestone payments
* Deal gives Roche access to novel bi-specific antibodies (Adds detail on Dutalys bi-specific antibodies)
Dec 18 (Reuters) - Roche has agreed to pay up to $489 million to acquire Austrian biotech company Dutalys, a specialist in the discovery and development of so-called bi-specific antibodies, the Swiss drugmaker said on Thursday.
Bi-specific antibody therapy is a fast-emerging technology that could prove more potent than conventional antibodies, which have become mainstay treatments for an array of cancers.
Roche will make an upfront cash payment of $133.75 million to shareholders in the Vienna-based company and make additional payments of up to $355 million if certain predetermined milestones are reached.
Dutalys has developed a proprietary technology, known as DutaMab, but its programmes are still at an early stage in the drug development process. Roche said the bi-specific antibodies produced with this platform could provide novel molecules for several therapeutic areas, though it gave no details.
The deal strengthens Roche’s leading position in the development of therapeutic antibodies, an area in which it already boasts several multibillion-dollar-a-year sellers, including Avastin and Herceptin for cancer.
Bi-specific antibodies are artificial proteins composed of fragments of two different monoclonal antibodies, which can bind in two different places in a disease pathway. Roche believes that the DutaMab technology, which creates fully human bi-specific antibodies, promises particularly good binding and stability.
Privately owned Dutalys was founded in April 2010. It is supported by seed financing from Austria Wirtschaftsservice, research grants from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency and the Technology Agency of the City of Vienna as well as funding from the Austrian Academic Business Incubator.
Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Goodman