AbbVie and Sosei Lead Slate of Early August R&D Deals

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Courtesy of Abbvie Inc.

Companies often partner with one another to utilize their strengths, particularly larger pharma companies leveraging technology platforms from smaller biotech firms. Here’s a look at three R&D collaboration announcements to kick off the month of August. 

AbbVie and Sosei Add Neurological Targets in New Deal 

Sosei Group Corporation and AbbVie inked a new drug discovery collaboration and option-to-license deal. They will focus on finding, developing and commercializing small molecule compounds that modulate novel G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) targets associated with neurological disease.

The partners plan to combine Sosei’s Heptares’ StaR technology and structure-based drug design (SBDD) platform with AbbVie’s neuroscience expertise. This expands an already existing collaboration entered into June 2020 which focused on inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Under the terms of the pact, Sosei will run and fund R&D activities through the completion of IND-enabling studies. AbbVie has the option to license up to three of the programs then and take over clinical, regulatory and commercial development.

AbbVie is paying Sosei $40 million upfront. Sosei will be eligible for up to $40 million in near-term research milestone payments and up to $1.2 billion in development and commercial milestones, as well as tiered royalties on global sales.

“We are delighted to enter this new multi-target discovery collaboration with AbbVie in the neuroscience area, a therapeutic area in which we share deep and complementary experience and expertise,” Matt Barnes, head of U.K. research & development at Sosei said in a statement.

TransCode and MD Anderson Partner on RNA Cancer Therapies

RNA research is hot, and celebrated yesterday on annual RNA Day. To that end, TransCode Therapeutics entered a strategic alliance with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to advance the former's pipeline of RNA cancer therapies and diagnostic candidates.

TransCode’s lead therapeutic candidate is TTX-MC138, designed for multiple metastatic cancers. It is scheduled for a first-in-human Phase 0 trial to demonstrate that it can deliver the therapy to metastatic lesions in patients with advanced solid tumors.

“RNA-based therapeutics offer exciting possibilities to treat cancer,” Sendurai Mani, Ph.D., professor of translational molecular pathology at MD Anderson said in a statement. “We can now examine how regulatory RNAs affect signaling, both spatially and temporally, at the single-cell level in tumor cells, immune cells and stem cells - all critical for tumor progression, relapse and immune evasion. Our goals in collaborating with TransCode are to gain a deeper understanding of RNA-targeted therapies and to bring innovative new treatment options to our patients.”

Xenetic and VolitionRx Unite to Develop NETs-Targeted Therapies Against Cancer

Xenetic Biosciences and VolitionRx announced an R&D collaboration to develop Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs) for cancer treatment. The partnership is designed to evaluate the potential combination of Volition’s Nu.Q NETs test and Xenetic’s DNase-Armored CAR T platform.

Under the terms of the deal, Volition will pay for the research program, and the partners will share proceeds from the commercialization or licensing of any commercial products that come out of it.

Xenetics focuses on immune-oncology. The company's DNase oncology platform targets NETs, while its personalized CAR T platform technology, XCART, is being developed to make cell-based drugs targeting the unique B-cell receptor on malignant tumor cells to treat B-cell lymphomas.

VolitionRx focuses on epigenetics, a field of gene regulation where environmental factors can switch genes on or off, depending on their epigenetic modifications.

“Since we in-licensed the DNase-based oncology platform in April of this year, our team is intently focused on driving the technologies forward with the goal of improving outcomes of existing therapeutic agents in multiple solid tumor indications,” Jeffrey Eisenberg, CEO of Xenetic stated. “We are pleased to enter into our first industry research and development collaboration just a few short months after acquiring the technology platform.”

Context, Menarini Partner on Breast Cancer Combo Trial

Context Therapeutics and Menarini Group announced Tuesday they have inked a deal to test and evaluate a breast cancer combination treatment. 

As part of the deal, Context's oral progesterone receptor (PR) antagonist ONA-XR will be used in combination with Menarini's elacestrant in estrogen receptor positive, PR+ HER2- metastatic breast cancer patients in the Phase Ib/II ELONA trial. In exchange for Menarini supplying the elacestrant at no cost, Menarini will provide funding. 

The trial is anticipated to begin at the end of this year, according to Context. 

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