'There are no rules': BMS enters lawless land of molecular degraders with $550M SyntheX deal

Bristol Myers Squibb is partnering up with San Francisco biotech SyntheX to ride into the lawless land of molecular glue degrader discovery—giving the biotech the potential to pocket up to $550 million in biobucks.   

“We’re particularly excited because molecular glues are kind of unknown—there are no rules,” SyntheX CEO Maria Soloveychik, Ph.D., told Fierce Biotech in an interview.

Molecular glues are small molecules used to stabilize the interaction between two proteins that don’t typically interact. Most molecular glues are identified serendipitously, the CEO explained, but SyntheX’s ToRNeDO platform can deliberately discover them.  

The research collaboration and license agreement with BMS spans the discovery, development and commercialization of new small-molecule degraders using ToRNeDO. The biotech and the Big Pharma will take aim at multiple unnamed targets using pre-specified E3 ligases and neosubstrates of interest.  

Under the deal terms, BMS will dole out an undisclosed upfront cash payment to SyntheX, with up to $550 million to potentially follow in performance-based milestone payments, as well as royalties.

“Being a platform company has been a major advantage to us—we're quite versatile,” Soloveychik explained. “We're also doing something that's completely different to what other folks are doing in the space.”

The BMS partnership is SyntheX’s first publicly disclosed collaboration. The biotech, founded in 2016 by Soloveychik and Chief Scientific Officer Charly Chahwan, is taking aim at “undruggable” targets across a range of modalities and mechanisms of action. Alongside ToRNeDO, the California biotech has another platform, dubbed ToRPPIDO, which is designed to identify disrupters of protein-protein interactions. Both platforms are genetically engineered and rely on functional intracellular drug selection in comparison to in vitro screening.

The biotech has multiple preclinical programs in its pipeline, all in oncology. The CEO said it makes sense to rope in other partners for some of SyntheX’s early programs to bring “more of that Big Pharma ammo around” for development. However, programs exploring a new aspect of biology are ones SyntheX wants to keep in-house longer.  

The company is currently building up to a series A financing round, though the CEO said there isn’t a set deadline on the funding.