Looks like someone ate their Wheaties. Genentech started Tuesday with a $1 billion biobucks deal with GPCR specialist Sosei Heptares and before the morning was out followed it with two more: one focused on cancer and neurodegenerative diseases with Skyhawk Therapeutics and one around neurological disorders with Convelo Therapeutics.
Skyhawk will use its SkySTAR technology to discover and develop small molecules that modulate RNA splicing to treat “certain oncology and neurological disease targets,” Skyhawk said in a statement. Genentech picks up the worldwide rights to develop and market drugs for multiple targets in exchange for an upfront free and the promise of future payments and royalties. No specifics were given, but Skyhawk said it could receive more than $2 billion in total.
The agreement grants Genentech an exclusive worldwide license to develop and commercialize potential therapeutics directed to multiple targets while Skyhawk receives an upfront payment and is eligible to receive future payments and royalties. As part of the agreement, Genentech will be responsible for clinical development and commercialization.
"Modulation of RNA splicing represents a novel approach for difficult-to-treat diseases," said James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., global head of pharma partnering at Roche, in the statement. "Skyhawk has developed unique expertise in splicing biology, and we are excited to work with their team to discover potential new medicines for patients with cancer and neurodegenerative diseases."
Skyhawk’s SkySTAR tech—short for Small molecule Therapeutics for Alternative splicing of RNA—is designed to target specific binding pocket regions of RNA. These sites can be left out during key steps in the RNA splicing process, causing mis-splicing. The company hopes reversing this skipping could treat the underlying causes of various diseases.
The Genentech collab comes two months after Skyhawk teamed up with Takeda Pharmaceutical on neurodegenerative disease and a year after it penned a $60 million partnership with Celgene under which the Big Biotech could license up to five new drug candidates from the deal. The Waltham, Massachusetts-based company also counts Biogen, Lakepharma, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, MIT and ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, among its partners.
As for Genentech’s deal with Convelo, the duo will work on new treatments that regenerate myelin—the fatty substance that protects and coats nerve fibers—for multiple sclerosis and other myelin disorders. They kept mum on financials, saying only that Convelo would pick up an “undisclosed upfront payment and research support from Genentech.” As part of the deal, Genentech also has the exclusive option to buy out Convelo, though how much that would cost remained—you guessed it—under wraps.