Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck KGaA are diving deeper into the protein degradation pool, with both inking partnerships with Amphista Therapeutics that together could bring in $2.3 billion for the British biotech.
Both big pharma companies will seek to leverage Amphista’s proprietary Eclipsys targeted protein degradation platform to develop novel protein degrading therapeutics. Targeted protein degradation (TPD) therapies are designed to remove pathogenic protein from the body in order to potentially access disease targets that have been considered “undruggable.” Amphista’s technology has been designed to develop next-generation TPD therapeutics based on advanced mechanistic insights and novel chemistry approaches that enable the development of novel protein degrading therapeutics. Rather than rely on the narrow set of ubiquitin E3 ligase-based mechanisms used in TPDs being developed by some other companies, Amphista’s approach makes use of a wider range of the body’s own innate protein degrading proteins. The company believes this overcomes the limitations of current TPD approaches and also provides the opportunity to target a wider range of disease indications.
- The partnership with Merck includes $44 million in upfront cash in exchange for three targets in oncology and immunology, with the potential for $1 billion in milestone payments. It follows the German pharma’s research collaboration in February with CeleisTxto use the company’s AI-enabled degrader discovery technology.
- While the deal with BMS was shorter on details, it was higher in potential payoff, with a $30 million upfront payment and up to $1.25 billion in biobucks for an undisclosed number of targets. The big pharma has an existing clinical-stage pipeline of degraders that leverage two different methods: molecular glues and heterobifunctional agents.
- With a combined $74 million in upfront cash, the decisions of both BMS and Merck to team up with Amphista are evidence of the considerable interest the biotech has generated since the series B closed in March 2021, CEO Nicola Thompson told Fierce Biotech.
- Under the terms of the agreement with Bristol Myers Squibb, Amphista has the potential to earn up to $1.25 billion in performance-based milestone payments.
Where Amphista hopes to make an impact is in how these proteins are marked for destruction. Much of targeted protein degradation now focuses on finding a particular ligase that can attach to proteins and bring them within proximity of the proteasome.
“We took more of a chemistry-led approach to identify molecules that could interact with what we like to think of as druggable nodes of the machinery,” Thompson said.
The CEO believes taking a broader approach will not only maximize the number of indications but improve efficacy. Amphista’s platform also has potential to target the central nervous system, Thompson added.
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