Bristol Myers inks protein degrader deal via Celgene team's link to seed-stage biotech
Bristol Myers Squibb is adding to its protein degrader lineup, which already includes the likes of A-Alpha Bio and Evotec, by linking arms with a little-known biotech that’s been communicating with the scientists at Celgene for the past few years.
The Big Pharma is investing in SyntheX and laying out a $550 million vision for the Bay Area seed-stage biotech that was just “a sketch on a napkin” in Toronto in 2016, co-founder and CEO Maria Soloveychik told Endpoints News in a preview of the Tuesday morning pact.
Bristol Myers is tapping into SyntheX’s so-called ToRNeDO platform, a whirlwind of a name which discovers molecular glues to serve as the bridge to new small molecule degraders. It’s a multi-target deal with the total potential of $550 million being the only figure offered up by SyntheX and its Big Pharma collaborator. Soloveychik characterized the deal as “the first one that we can disclose,” suggesting other biopharmas might have already gotten in the front door.
Through the Celgene golden ticket competition, SyntheX has known scientists at the now-acquired BMS company since at least 2018, building up that relationship over the years to culminate in today’s pact. The upstart CEO noted SyntheX was talking to “a couple of other Pharmas” as well.
The small team, not spun out from anywhere, is focused on making the early-stage drug discovery process “a bit more functional, reduce the amount of secondary screens we have to do and counter-selections afterwards,” Soloveychik said. Instead of relying on proxy readouts, the biotech is “putting in functional selection as a requirement for compounds to come out of the screens,” she explained.
SyntheX uses genetic engineering to create the cells that give the readouts, and the first platform they built does protein-protein interactions. The platform of BMS focus detects the degradation of a protein using specific E3 ligases, she said, noting it was developed in 2019.
Prior to the BMS backing, the biotech had been funded by seed investors and “a couple of smaller cash infusions,” the CEO said. Bankrollers include SOSV accelerator, Morgan Noble Healthcare Partners, 8VC, and Oriza Ventures, among others.
The company is about to start raising a Series A, which would likely fuel an entry into the clinic for its internal pipeline, according to the CEO, who noted science will determine which asset goes into human studies first.
SyntheX wants to avoid “the single-mutation approach that’s been seen as really promising, but at the same time there’s a lot of resistance coming up in the clinic,” the CEO explained, “so we’re trying to think through orthogonal approaches that won’t be as susceptible to these types of resistance mechanisms by going after synthetic lethals.”