After more than two years of hunting for treasure in Ascentage’s library of cell death regulating compounds, Unity Biotechnology thinks it has found a winner to guide its foray into age-related eye diseases.
Unity, which went public with a slate of mouse data backing its anti-aging pipeline last year, plans to file an IND for UBX1967 in the second half of 2019.
The drug inhibits particular members of the Bcl-2 family of proteins, known to play a regulatory role in apoptosis, or cell death. While Ascentage’s in-house work on this technology has focused on its cancer applications, it also fits well with Unity’s approach to selectively eliminate senescent cells — by targeting proteins they rely on for survival.
There will be plenty of ground to cover in the clinical program from neovascular age-related macular degeneration to proliferative diabetic retinopathy to diabetic macular edema, whichever Unity chooses to pursue first.
“UBX1967 represents a novel approach to treating age-related eye diseases, potentially eliminating the source of multiple disease-causing factors,” said Unity CSO Dan Marquess in a statement.
And in case it doesn’t pan out, the license agreement also gives San Francisco-based Unity rights to a back-up Bcl-2 inhibitor.
Meanwhile, Ascentage stands to receive an unspecified upfront in shares of Unity’s stock $UBX as well as cash milestone payments. Per the 2016 pact, should Unity choose to license at least one more products, the Chinese biotech will gain a total of 1,333,338 shares, a spokesperson tells me.
Not that Ascentage is in a hurry to cash in. Flush with a $150 million raise from last July, CEO Dajun Yang led the company into an IPO filing on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
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