Scorpion and AstraZeneca Strike $1.5B Deal Against Hard-to-Treat Proteins

AstraZeneca_Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Scorpion Therapeutics and AstraZeneca have partnered to develop precision medicines against previously hard-to-target cancer proteins. The companies believe the collaboration, valued at more than $1.5 billion, for up to three small molecule therapeutics has the potential to transform oncology treatments.

The collaboration will leverage Scorpion’s integrated Precision Oncology 2.0 drug-hunting engine to discover and develop these small molecules against well-validated transcription factors. Boston-based Scorpion, which was named one of BioSpace’s NextGen Class of 2022 companies to watch, and AstraZeneca will focus on a class of proteins called transcription factors. These proteins control gene expression and are able to regulate important cellular processes, which include cell growth and survival. 

Scorpion noted that transcription factors are well known as important targets for new cancer treatments and drivers of disease. Scorpion’s therapeutic approach takes aim at non-enzymatic targets thought to be “undruggable.”

In the announcement, Scorpion did not indicate what areas of oncology the collaboration would focus on. 

Axel Hoos, chief executive officer of Scorpion and former head of oncology at GlaxoSmithKline, expressed excitement about the collaboration. Hoos said the U.K. pharma giant’s experience in drug development and commercialization complements Scorpion’s discovery platform.

“We expect this collaboration will accelerate Scorpion’s efforts to deliver the promise of Precision Oncology 2.0: optimized, transformational therapies for more patients living with cancer,” Hoos said in a statement.

Per the collaboration agreement, Scorpion will lead discovery and certain preclinical activities. AstraZeneca will then have the option to license rights for up to three drug candidates. If the larger company exercises that option, AstraZeneca will then be responsible for global development and commercialization activities.

“Unlocking potentially transformative biology is pivotal for delivering the next wave of cancer treatments. Scorpion’s innovative platform is a strong strategic fit as we explore a range of new modalities across our broad drug discovery toolbox with promise to disrupt the activity of these highly-validated cancer targets,” Sara Galbraith, head of oncology R&D at AstraZeneca said in a statement. 

Financial terms of the deal include an upfront cash payment of $75 million to Scorpion Therapeutics. The company will then be eligible to receive up to an additional $1.5 billion in milestone payments and fees. Scorpion will also be eligible for potential royalties on any asset commercialized from the deal.

Scorpion launched in late 2020 with $108 million from a Series A financing round. The company followed that up with an additional $162 million in a Series B round in early 2021. 

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