Earlier this week PharmaMar, an Madrid-based biopharmaceutical company developing innovative marine-derived anticancer drugs, signed an exclusive agreement with Seattle Genetics in which the company licenses proprietary, fully synthetic marine-derived payload ‘molecules’ for the development, manufacture and commercialization of novel antibody-drug conjugates or ADCs.

Under the terms of the agreement PharmaMar receives an upfront payment of US $ 5,000,000.00 followed by development milestones if an antibody-drug conjugate using PharmaMar’s cytotoxic payload enters clinical development. PharmaMar is also eligible for royalties, once a product receives regulatory approval and is commercialized.

As part of the agreement, Seattle Genetics receives exclusive worldwide rights the selected cytotoxic molecules.


... [the agreement] … allows us to work together in [the development] of these cutting-edge cancer treatments…


Marine Payloads
PharmaMar was the first company in the world to develop a marine-based cancer drug from discovery through to commercialization. The proprietary, fully synthetic marine-derived payloads developed by PharmaMar and which are part of the licensing agreement with Seattle Genetics, are new, structurally diverse molecules with novel mechanisms of action that provide a unique opportunity to develop next generation ADCs.

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In the development of these cytotoxic payloads, scientists at PharmaMar take inspiration from the sea to discover these novel molecules with highly potent, sub-nanomolar cytotoxic activity.

“We are glad to sign this license agreement with Seattle Genetics, a pioneer and leading company in the ADC market, because it allows us to work together in [the development] of these cutting-edge cancer treatments,” noted Luis Mora, Managing Director of PharmaMar ́s Oncology Business Unit.

Development process
Between 1960 and 1981 the National Cancer Institute (NCI) screened 114,000 extracts of 35,000 plants, mainly collected in temperate regions. The results of this screening confirmed that between 0.4% to 1.8% of natural extracts of natural material (from terrestrial plants to marine animals) may contain anti-cancer activities. [1]

Continuing the discovery and development of novel anti-cancer agents, PharmaMar, today, has the world’s largest collection of marine organisms. This collection contains nearly 200,000 samples of macro- and micro-organisms.

As part of the development of novel marine-derived payloads, researchers at PharmaMar conduct
multi-phase research programs to discover and develop new anti-tumor compounds of marine origin.

The first phase of the process involves gathering samples of marine organisms (mostly
invertebrates). The biological activity of these samples are assessed and further investigated.

Following this phase, substance responsible for anti-cancer activity, are isolated and its chemical structure established. Then, a chemical synthesis process for its industrialization is designed after which the pharmaceutical formula of the new compound is defined.

“In vivo” models are designed to test the efficacy in a range of different tumors. If the results are positive, research continues in pre-clinical and clinical phases. This unique approach has resulted in a portfolio of products that are at various stages of clinical development.