How Zymeworks aims to take on Roche’s $10B HER2 franchise

Zymeworks is taking on Roche’s $10B HER2 franchise using bispecifics in a ‘displace and expand’ strategy

Zymeworks is going head to head with one of the biggest commercial cancer franchises -- Roche’s Herceptin trastuzumab and Perjeta pertuzumab -- as it pursues clinical proof-of-concept for its protein engineering platform.

Pivotal readouts in 2022 from its lead bispecific program, along with additional data from the biotech’s first ADC, will provide the first glimpse of whether Zymeworks Inc.'s technologies can generate best-in-class molecules that outperform combinations of individual mAbs.

After nearly eight years of aggressively partnering its suite of bispecific customization technologies, Zymeworks raised $175 million in an upsized follow-on on June 19 to accelerate the development of its internal pipeline.

Its two clinical programs are both based on a bispecific mAb targeting two different epitopes of HER2.

ZW25 is the backbone mAb and targets the same HER2 epitopes as Herceptin and Perjeta -- one with each arm -- aiming to deliver even better efficacy than the combo, which recorded nearly $10 billion in 2018 sales.

ZW49 is an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) version of the HER2 bispecific carrying an auristatin cytotoxic payload.

The strategy is audacious given Herceptin’s 20-year reign as standard of care

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