Takeda Joins Hot Molecular Glue Market With $1.2B Deal

Takeda US_iStock, hapabapa

Pictured: Facade of Takeda's office in Massachusetts/iStock, hapabapa

Takeda Pharmaceuticals has inked an exclusive licensing deal with China-based Degron Therapeutics to develop novel molecular glue degraders for various oncology, neuroscience and inflammatory disease targets, the Chinese biotech announced Thursday.

The partners did not disclose the specific financial breakdown of the agreement, only revealing that Takeda will make an upfront payment and will pledge potential preclinical, clinical, development and commercial milestones, all of which could reach $1.2 billion. Meanwhile, Degron will be eligible for tiered royalties on sales of any commercialized product as a result of the partnership.

Takeda will also make an equity investment in Degron as part of the agreement.

In return, the Japanese multinational will gain access to Degron’s proprietary GlueXplorer discovery platform, which makes use of the biotech’s “unique and expanding library of structurally differentiated molecular glue degraders,” which are subjected to various assays and screening techniques to validate their mechanism and therapeutic potential, according to the announcement.

Degron also uses artificial intelligence to supplement its GlueXplorer approach, using proprietary data and algorithms to predict novel glue targets and accelerate the discovery of potential compounds.

Takeda CSO Chris Arendt said in a statement that its collaboration with Degron will add “an innovative new platform to our drug discovery toolbox,” adding that molecular glue degraders could give the company access to targets that have been “previously inaccessible or inadequately modulated by other treatment modalities.”

Takeda and Degron will retain the option to expand the partnership to include additional targets.

Molecular glue degraders are an emerging class of potentially therapeutic compounds that work by facilitating the interaction between two molecules, typically two proteins, inside a cell. This mechanism of action allows the molecular glues to tag previously undruggable disease-causing proteins for destruction.

Several Big Pharma players have recently ramped up investments in molecular glues. In February 2024, Novo Nordisk put $1.46 billion on the line to team up with San Diego biotech Neomorph to develop and commercialize novel molecular glues.

The partners have yet to reveal what cancers they will prioritize, only indicating that the collaboration will cover multiple targets. Neomorph will handle discovery and preclinical activities and then Novo will take over clinical development.

Also betting on the molecular glue space is Roche. In September 2023, its subsidiary Genentech paid $47 million upfront and pledged up to $2 billion in a multi-year collaboration with Orionis Biosciences to develop therapies for “challenging targets in major disease areas” such as cancer and neurodegeneration.

In April 2023, Merck also jumped into the hot molecular glue space with a potential $2.55 billion deal with Vienna-based Proxygen.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Reach out to him on LinkedIn or email him at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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