Take­da takes a swing at RNA small mol­e­cules with dis­cov­ery pact for mul­ti­ple po­ten­tial Evotec pro­grams

Heart­ened by an FDA ap­proval for Roche’s Evrys­di last year as the first small mol­e­cule mod­u­la­tor for RNA, the rest of bio­phar­ma is look­ing to place their bets in the promis­ing field. No stranger to ear­ly-stage dis­cov­ery deals, Take­da has now iced a pact with a Ger­man play­er to chase the first small mol­e­cule lig­and for RNA.

Ger­many-based Evotec will team up with Take­da to dis­cov­er and de­vel­op RNA tar­gets ripe for small mol­e­cule ther­a­peu­tics, the com­pa­ny an­nounced Mon­day.

In ad­di­tion to re­ceiv­ing re­search fund­ing, Evotec will be el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive dis­cov­ery, pre-clin­i­cal, clin­i­cal, com­mer­cial and sales mile­stone pay­ments of up to $160 mil­lion per pro­gram, as well as tiered roy­al­ties on net sales of any prod­ucts that come from the col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Cord Dohrmann

Tar­get in­di­ca­tions weren’t dis­closed as part of the an­nounce­ment. An Evotec spokesper­son couldn’t be reached for com­ment by press time.

The col­lab­o­ra­tion will use Evotec’s RNA tar­get­ing plat­form to iden­ti­fy promis­ing RNA se­quences to tar­get small-mol­e­cule lig­ands that can be de­vel­oped in­to ther­a­peu­tics, a state­ment said. It’s an­oth­er shot on goal at RNA tar­gets, which al­low drug de­vel­op­ers to by­pass hard-to-hit pro­teins, ac­cord­ing to Cord Dohrmann, CSO of Evotec.

“Many high­ly val­i­dat­ed tar­gets have proven to be in­tractable via con­ven­tion­al pro­tein tar­get­ing ap­proach­es,” Dohrmann said in a state­ment. “For this rea­son, Evotec has been pi­o­neer­ing RNA tar­get­ing strate­gies and ap­proach­es for quite some time.”

This type of part­ner­ship is noth­ing new for Evotec and marks the sec­ond time in the past year that it’s fos­tered an al­liance with Take­da.

In April 2020, Take­da tapped Evotec to de­vel­op gene ther­a­py tar­gets across four broad ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas — on­col­o­gy, rare dis­eases, neu­ro­science and gas­troen­terol­o­gy. In Oc­to­ber, the com­pa­ny an­nounced plans to in­vest more in cell and gene ther­a­py re­search af­ter re­ceiv­ing a $236 mil­lion in­vest­ment from Mubadala In­vest­ment Com­pa­ny, the UAE’s sov­er­eign wealth fund.

Two months ear­li­er, in Au­gust 2020, the drug dis­cov­ery com­pa­ny was en­list­ed by Dan­ish gi­ant No­vo Nordisk to tar­get chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease. The com­pa­ny al­so has long-term dis­cov­ery al­liances with com­pa­nies like Bay­er, Boehringer In­gel­heim, No­var­tis, Pfiz­er and Sanofi.

Lar­ry Hamann

Evotec’s plat­form is de­signed to iden­ti­fy RNA ter­tiary struc­tur­al el­e­ments where rSM are able to bind with “suf­fi­cient se­lec­tiv­i­ty and affin­i­ty,” dis­cov­er and de­vel­op rSM binders that could po­ten­tial­ly de­liv­er oral­ly avail­able drugs and iden­ti­fy and de­liv­er proof-of-tar­get en­gage­ment for dis­ease-rel­e­vant RNA struc­tures, al­low­ing bi­o­log­i­cal­ly ac­tive rSM binders.

“Take­da rec­og­nizes tar­get­ing RNA with small mol­e­cules as a promis­ing new modal­i­ty that has tremen­dous po­ten­tial for much need­ed med­i­cines for pa­tients through mod­u­lat­ing his­tor­i­cal­ly un­drug­gable tar­gets,” said Lar­ry Hamann, Head, Drug Dis­cov­ery Sci­ences at Take­da. “We are ex­cit­ed to be work­ing with Evotec and their im­pres­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

Martin Landray, Protas CEO (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Those big bil­lion-dol­lar PhI­II stud­ies? Mar­tin Lan­dray says they can be done for a tiny frac­tion of the cost

Martin Landray knows what controversy in clinical drug development feels like, from first-hand experience.

Landray was the chief architect of RECOVERY, a study that pitted a variety of drugs against Covid-19. And he offered some landmark data that would help push dexamethasone out into broader use as a cheap treatment, while helping ice hydroxy’s reputation as a clear misfire.

“Lots of people told us we shouldn’t use it,” Landray says about dexamethasone and Covid-19. “It was dangerous. We shouldn’t even do a trial. They also cared about hydroxychloroquine and lots of people said we shouldn’t do a trial because it must be used. I’ve got the letters from both sets of people.”

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

FDA ap­proves one of the prici­est new treat­ments of all time — blue­bird's gene ther­a­py for be­ta tha­lassemia

The FDA on Wednesday approved the first gene therapy for a chronic condition — bluebird bio’s new Zynteglo (beti-cel) as a potentially curative treatment for those with transfusion-dependent thalassemia.

The thumbs-up from the FDA follows a unanimous adcomm vote in June, with outside experts pointing to extraordinary efficacy, with 89% of subjects with TDT who received beti-cel having achieved transfusion independence.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 148,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Geoffrey Porges, new Schrödinger CFO

Long­time an­a­lyst Ge­of­frey Porges de­parts SVB to lead fi­nances at a drug dis­cov­ery shop

Geoffrey Porges has ended his two-decade run as a biotech analyst, as the former SVB Securities vice chair began as CFO of Schrödinger on Thursday.

The long-running analyst, who previously headed up vaccines marketing at Merck before the turn of the millennium, will lead the financial operations of the 700-employee company as Schrödinger broadens its focus from a drug discovery partner to also building out an in-house pipeline, with clinical trial No. 1 set to begin next quarter.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 148,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

James Sabry, Roche global head of pharma partnering

Roche, Genen­tech plunk down $60M up­front to part­ner with Chi­nese phar­ma on PRO­TAC-based prostate can­cer drug

Roche and Genentech are always on the hunt for deals, and on Thursday they found their newest partner.

The pair will team up with the Chinese pharma company Jemincare to push forward a new program for prostate cancer, the companies announced. Roche is ponying up $60 million upfront to get its hands on the candidate and promising up to $590 million in biobucks, plus royalties, down the line.

In return, Genentech will get a worldwide license to develop the program, known as JMKX002992, and bring it to market.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 148,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO

Ex­sci­en­tia ter­mi­nates Bay­er pact half a year ear­ly, col­lect­ing small por­tion of €240M promised

Bayer and Exscientia are winding down their three-year collaboration, leaving the big German pharma to take the AI-designed compounds born out of the pact further.

London-based Exscientia revealed in its Q2 update that the partners have “mutually agreed to end” their collaboration, which kicked off in early 2020, after recently achieving a drug discovery milestone. In an SEC filing, Exscientia said it terminated the pact on May 30, about six months early.

Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Kate Haviland, Blueprint Medicines CEO

Blue­print met all its end­points in bid for ex­pand­ed Ay­vak­it la­bel — but stock trends low­er any­way

Blueprint Medicines announced this morning that the second part of its study on Ayvakit in non-advanced systemic mastocytosis (SM) — a rare disease in which a type of white blood cells known as mast cells builds up — met all endpoints, but the biopharma left key questions unanswered.

In 212 patients, with 141 in the treatment arm and 71 in the control arm, patients who got Ayvakit saw an average 15.6-point decrease in their symptom scores compared to a 9.2-point decrease in the placebo arm at 24 weeks. In an extension study, those on Ayvakit saw their symptom scores drop by 20.2 points by week 48.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 148,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.