Amgen enters hot protein degradation field with $500M biobucks deal with Plexium

Amgen is breaking into the protein degradation space in a $500 million biobucks deal with Plexium just weeks after lining up for RNA degraders in a tie-up with Arrakis

The California neighbors entered a multi-year research collaboration and licensing agreement for new protein degradation therapies initially focused on two programs in cancer and other serious diseases. Amgen will dish out the milestones in exchange for a commercial license to the two programs.

Amgen has the option to add more programs, the companies said Thursday. The deal follows Amgen's $75 million partnership with Arrakis to work on targeted RNA degraders, announced at last month's J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

This marks Amgen's entrance into the protein degradation field, which has caught the eyes of Big Pharma through multiple deals in recent quarters. Pfizer paid Arvinas $650 million upfront last July, Eli Lilly is betting $1.6 billion on Lycia for five targets and Novartis is committing up to $1.3 billion in milestones for new British startup Dunad Therapeutics.

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In the new partnership, Amgen will work with Plexium to look at molecular glues and monovalent degraders that haven't been recognized before, the companies said. The molecules aim to bring two proteins together to induce the degradation. 

Amgen doesn't currently have any protein agents in the clinic, according to a spokesperson. Partnering with a nascent biotech could help change that. Plexium has secured $63 million in financing since October 2019 for its protein degradation technology. 

Protein degraders and molecular glues are two of four areas Novartis has specifically called out as ripe for partnering. The Big Pharma's innovation chief, Jay Bradner, M.D., implored biotechs to reach out about M&A and partnering during Fierce JPM Week last month, pointing to those two areas and genome engineering and biologics. 

RELATED: Stablix lands on stable footing with $63M series A for protein stabilization efforts

Other biotech entrants are looking at the flipside of protein degradation. You guessed it, protein stabilization. Stablix Therapeutics recently nabbed $63 million to prove it can reinforce the body's mechanisms and ensure the body has a sufficient level of specific proteins to stave off certain diseases.