Anchor lands $480M discovery pact with J&J unit

Anchor Therapeutics has snared a $480 million preclinical discovery pact with J&J's Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals--but it's keeping its upfront payment under wraps.

In the deal, which was announced this morning, Cambridge, MA-based Anchor will put its pepducin technology to work identifying preclinical G protein coupled receptor-targeted therapeutic compounds for oncology and metabolic disease targets. The pact includes Anchor's program for gpr39, a metabolic therapy. In addition to the unspecified upfront, Anchor gets an undisclosed amount of research support from the J&J operation and the schedule of milestone payments for a successful development effort.

The fledgling Anchor, which was originally called Ascent before it underwent a name change earlier this year, has aggressively targeted new partnerships at an early stage--an increasingly common strategy for upstart developers with platform technology in play. Its first pact was with the Novartis Option Fund--which provided a $200 million deal package--and CEO Rick Jones told FierceBiotech back in March that he hoped to wrap two more deals before the end of the year. Anchor announced an initial $10 million closing of its Series B in August.  

While Jones had planned to push for $30 million in the Series B, he tells FierceBiotech this morning that he's scaled that down to $15 million to $20 million. Added to Anchor's milestone revenue--and the possibility that Novartis might exercise its option "sooner rather than later"--that should be enough to fund the company through its first IND.

"We can hit targets that other people can't," says Jones. And that has him confident that new deals are ahead. But not too many. "We don't want to be an operation where you're working on so many collaborations you're 90 percent committed to other people's projects. We'll be selective about future collaborations."

- check out the Anchor release