Vertex Establishes $70 Million Protein Degradation Partnership with Kymera Therapeutics

Vertex logo on building

Less than six months after securing $65 million in a Series B financing round, Cambridge, Mass.-based Kymera Therapeutics snagged another $70 million from a collaboration with Vertex Pharmaceuticals to advance small molecule protein degraders against multiple targets.

The two Massachusetts companies will leverage Kymera’s Pegasus drug discovery platform, which is designed to help cells target proteins found on them that could be detrimental and accelerate the development of a disease. The companies plan to combine that platform with Vertex’s clinical and regulatory capabilities to accelerate the development of first-in-class medicines for people with serious diseases. The disease targets were not specified by the two companies in the announcement. So far, the Pegasus platform has been aimed at assets for oncology and immunology. Vertex is, of course, the leading company in cystic fibrosis treatments, but also has a focus on rare diseases that are identifiable by genetic mutations.

Kymera President and Chief Executive Officer Laurent Audoly said the collaboration will allow the companies to harness Vertex’s “deep understanding of human biology and genetics” with Kymera’s Pegasus platform. Audoly said the partnership will broaden the application of targeted protein degradation to address serious diseases beyond cancer with limited or no treatment options.

“This fits perfectly with Kymera’s vision to build a platform that is disease agnostic and delivers the broadest possible impact,” Audoly said in a statement.

Mark Bunnage, site head of Boston Research at Vertex, said the collaboration with Kymera will enhance the company’s drug discovery capabilities, as well as support Vertex’s strategy of investing in scientific innovation to develop medicines for serious diseases.

“We’ve been impressed by the Kymera team’s depth of knowledge in the field and compelling technology platform, and are excited to bring our research and development expertise to this promising new therapeutic modality,” Bunnage said in a statement.

Protein degradation is a hot area for drug development. Several companies are invested in this area, including Cedilla Therapeutics and Arvinas. Last month, San Diego-based Cullgen received $16 million in a Series A financing round to support the development of its pipeline of targeted protein degraders in oncology and other diseases.

Under terms of the four-year agreement, Kymera will receive Kymera $70 million upfront including an equity investment in the company. Kymera will conduct research activities in multiple targets under the collaboration. Upon designation of a clinical development candidate, Vertex has the option to exclusively license molecules against the designated target. If the therapies hit clinical and regulatory milestones, Kymera could receive more than $1 billion.

Vertex isn’t the first company to partner with Kymera. Last year, GlaxoSmithKline forged a partnership with Kymera to drive forward on a limited number of protein degradation targets. GSK and Kymera will also collaborate to discover novel E3 ligases - the enzymes that bind and target disease-causing proteins marking them for degradation.

Earlier this year, Kymera presented new preclinical data for its first-in-class oral IRAK4 protein degrader, KYM-001, in MYD88-mutant lymphoma. KYM-001 is designed to remove both the kinase and scaffolding function of IRAK4 to effectively block Myddosome signaling and shrink the tumor.

Vertex also posted positive news earlier this year. In March, the company reported that its triple-combination treatment for cystic fibrosis hit the mark in two Phase III trials, setting the stage for the company to secure approval for another treatment for cystic fibrosis.

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