Genentech is doubling down on its commitment to New Haven biotech Arvinas, extending the duo’s partnership and tacking an additional $350 million onto the total deal value.
The companies have been working together since 2015, with Genentech licensing Arvinas’ platform for protein degradation to do some secretive R&D. Back then, Genentech wasn’t disclosing its disease targets, and it still isn’t. They’re only telling us that the new deal includes additional targets in “multiple therapeutic areas.”
Under the revised terms, Arvinas can receive milestone payments in excess of $650 million. When the deal was first announced, the package included $300 million in potential milestones.
What has Genentech so interested? Arvinas is a bit of a pioneer in a new modality called protein degradation. Arvinas’ CEO John Houston tells me the company was the first to take the concept beyond academia. The science has since gained popularity, with companies like C4 Therapeutics and Kymera jumping on board. Even major pharmas like Celgene, Takeda, GSK and Novartis have efforts in the space.
The concept behind protein degradation is simple enough. Where protein inhibition has led to some advanced medicines, degrading proteins could prove a much more durable solution. In short, Arvinas plans to tag certain disease-causing proteins for destruction by recruiting an E3 ligase to the target, thereby sending the protein to the cell’s natural “garbage disposal” called the ubiquitin-proteasome system.
Houston said the platform, in theory, could be widely applicable to several diseases.
“We’re not limited by disease area, as almost any disease with a cell you want to degrade could be targeted,” Houston said.
Still, the company is starting with two main programs for androgen and estrogen receptor degradation for prostate and breast cancer. They’re working on a pair of INDs and looking to get into the clinic by 2018, although the company’s breast cancer program may get there a tad earlier.
Houston said after these two targets, Arvinas may pursue lung cancer and melanoma. Further in the future, Houston (who used to run neurosciences at Bristol-Myers) said he’d like to see the company take on neurodegeneration, as well.
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