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.
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.
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.”