Astellas notches another protein degrader pact with $21M upfront for PeptiDream

Is there anything Astellas likes more than a protein degrader pact? The Japanese pharma has followed up agreements with the likes of Cullgen and Generian Pharmaceuticals by tapping PeptiDream for its latest partnership.

The agreement will see the two companies use PeptiDream's peptide discovery platform to find “multiple next-generation protein degraders targeting diverse targets that go beyond existing technologies,” according to a July 25 release. The initial focus will be on two targets selected by Astellas, with the pharma having the option to expand to an additional three targets at a later date.

Astellas will be responsible for the development and commercialization of any products that result from the collaboration, for which the Tokyo-based pharma is paying 3 billion Japanese yen ($21 million) upfront. PeptiDream will also be in line for potential discovery, development and sales-based milestones reaching 20.6 billion Japanese yen ($145 million) per target, along with single-digit percent royalties.

Protein degradation has emerged as a hot modality in recent years as evidence of its potential to address undruggable proteins has been uncovered. The PeptiDream collaboration comes a month after Astellas paid Cullgen $35 million upfront to make use of the U.S.-based biotech’s platform. But Astellas’ interest in the technology goes further back.

Having identified the approach as one of its five primary areas of focus, the pharma teamed up (PDF) with Fimecs, a biotech built on Takeda technology, and allied with Generian to work on small molecules that activate, stabilize or degrade proteins.

While Astellas is initially focused on cancer, executives have said they see opportunities to use protein degraders in other settings such as immunology. The company also has an in-house candidate called ASP3082, a KRAS G12D degrader in phase 1 development for cancer.

Astellas isn’t the only pharma that sees potential in protein degraders. Pfizer handed over $650 million upfront to Arvinas back in 2021 to develop and commercialize the biotech’s protein-degrading breast cancer drug. Meanwhile, Merck & Co. and Eli Lilly both secured their own partnerships with PeptiDream at the start of this year.

PeptiDream’s Chief Operating Officer Keiichi Masuya said today’s agreement with Astellas “further validates the potential of our PDPS technology to obtain highly selective peptides, which enables creative approaches in the area of targeted protein degraders.”