Gilead baits new alliance with $45M upfront, diving into the busy protein degradation field
Gilead is jumping on board the protein degradation bandwagon. And they’re turning to a low-profile Third Rock startup for the expertise. But if you were looking for a transformational deal to kick up fresh enthusiasm for Gilead, you’ll have to remain patient.
This one will have a long way to go before they get into the clinic.
The big biotech said Wednesday morning that it is paying $45 million upfront and reserving a whopping $2.3 billion in biotech bucks if San Francisco-based Nurix can point the way to new cancer therapies, as well as drugs for other, unspecified diseases.
Still in the preclinical phase 5 years after Mark Goldsmith — dispatched by Third Rock to launch West Coast biotechs and now CEO at Revolution — booted up the company with an unusually lean $25 million venture round, Nurix quickly picked up an impressive $150 million upfront from a new deal back in 2015 with the then prolific Celgene. It has 2 preclinical efforts underway, one in house and a CDL-B program paired with Celgene, which will soon migrate to Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Gilead CSO John McHutchison counts himself as an admirer of Nurix’s tech platform, hoping it pans out “as we continue to build a pipeline of small molecule therapeutics for patients with cancers and other diseases.”
The focus at Nurix, and now Gilead, is the ubiquitin system and key enzymes called E3 ligases. Protein degradation has proved a promising approach in oncology, attracting a group of players to the field. Arvinas is one of the most prominent, adding an ag deal with Bayer a few days ago with $115 million built-in upfront. But it is by no means playing solo in the second-gen protein degradation field. Rivals to the protein degradation title include C4 Therapeutics — out of Jay Bradner’s lab at Dana Farber before he took the helm at NIBR — and the startup Kymera. And not surprisingly, Bradner — who now runs NIBR — recently forged a close relationship with UC Berkeley on protein degradation as well.
Nurix gets a chance to co-promote drugs in the deal they did with Gilead, provided they pick up half the development costs.
Social image: Eric Risberg, AP Images