BioStratum Inc. has signed a research, development and marketing agreement with Danish firm Novo Nordisk A/S that could provide the company with as much as $100 million when all is said and done.

Under the agreement, the companies will jointly develop monoclonal antibodies targeted against laminin-5 for the treatment of cancer. Laminin-5 is a basal lamina protein that mediates the binding of specific cell types to the extracellular matrix.

RTP-based BioStratum has granted Novo Nordisk the exclusive right to develop and subsequently market monoclonal antibodies that bind to laminin-5. The companies will jointly conduct a research program to be funded by Novo Nordisk.

In addition to research funding, BioStratum is entitled to receive potential milestones of approximately $80 million, as well as royalties on product sales, for each antibody developed and marketed under the agreement, which could push the total over $100 million for BioStratum.

“This is a very exciting deal for BioStratum,” said Robert Schotzinger, president and CEO of BioStratum. “It provides an additional demonstration of the strength of our drug discovery and development capabilities. In addition, Novo Nordisk is an excellent partner for this program given their commitment to the field of oncology and their industry- leading expertise in developing, manufacturing and marketing therapeutic proteins.”

Karl Tryggvason, a founding scientist of RTP-based BioStratum and chairman of the department of medical biochemistry and biophysics at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, discovered that laminin-5 is utilized by certain invasive tumors to promote tumor migration and metastasis through the extracellular matrix.

In subsequent studies, the level of laminin-5 expression was shown to correlate with the invasive potential and clinical aggressiveness of certain tumor types, such as cervical, laryngeal and colorectal cancer. Monoclonal antibodies developed by BioStratum have been shown to inhibit the migration of laminin-5-producing tumor cells through the extracellular matrix, and to inhibit tumor growth in various animal models of cancer.

BioStratum is also focused on the discovery and development of novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of diabetes and diabetic complications. The company’s lead drug candidate, Pyridorin, has completed Phase II clinical trials for diabetic nephropathy and was recently granted fast track status by the FDA.