News briefing: Merck picks up SHP2 option from Taiho-Astex deal; Taysha expands partnership with UT Southwestern
Taiho and Astex have extended their collaboration with Merck, granting the pharma an exclusive license to their joint SHP2 program.
Wednesday’s extension stems from the agreement the three companies signed in Jan 2020. Taiho and Astex will receive an undisclosed option fee and be eligible for further undisclosed milestones and royalty payments. Merck will be solely responsible for the global development of the program and funding all further research.
However, Taiho has retained co-commercialization rights in Japan and an option to promote SHP2 products in specific areas of southeast Asia.
The collaboration focuses on the discovery and development of small molecule inhibitors against several drug targets, including the KRAS oncogene.
SHP2 is a dephosphorylating enzyme, acting as a signaling molecule that regulates various cellular processes including proliferation and differentiation. The molecule also helps regulate the activation of the RAS signaling pathway such as KRAS, the companies say. — Max Gelman
Taysha aims to advance UT Southwestern gene therapies to the clinic
Taysha Gene Therapies is expanding a partnership to further advance its central nervous system programs.
The biotech will work with UT Southwestern Medical Center to develop an innovation fund to discover and develop new gene therapy candidates for monogenic diseases of the CNS. Their goal is to get UTSW’s early-stage candidates into the clinic, and Taysha will have an exclusive option on new programs and IP arising from the research agreement.
“We believe that the combination of UTSW’s translational research expertise in gene therapy and strong track record of innovation and our experience in drug development and GMP manufacturing will create opportunities to reach more patients,” Taysha CEO RA Session II said in a statement.
Thus far, the pair’s agreement has resulted in 18 product candidates, including TSHA-101 in GM2 gangliosidosis and TSHA-118 in CLN1. — Max Gelman
Esperion in-licenses oral PCSK9 inhibitor program
Esperion is shelling out $12.5 million in what it hopes can be the first oral PCSK9 inhibitor to reach the market.
The biotech in-licensed the program from Serometrix in December, it announced Wednesday along with fourth-quarter results from 2020. With the deal, Serometrix is able to receive undisclosed milestone payments, and Esperion expects to provide an update later this year for timing on an IND filing.
Notably, the program Esperion acquired targets allosteric inhibition of PCSK9, marking a different mechanism of action than previous approaches, chief development officer Ashley Hall said in a statement. In parallel, the company plans to pursue a fixed combination drug product with bempedoic acid, with some studies showing an additional 30% LDL-C lowering on average compared to placebo.