Bristol-Myers taps Sirenas for 'global microbiome' drug discovery

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sirenas are looking to identify new therapies for "the world's highest unmet medical needs" but did not disclose their targets. (Bristol-Myers Squibb)

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sirenas inked a research collaboration, which will see the pair using the latter’s drug discovery engine to identify candidates for a number of “challenging therapeutic targets.”

Armed with its Atlantis drug discovery platform, San Diego-based Sirenas is looking to match small molecules from what it calls the global microbiome—which includes microbes found outside of humans as well as within them—to disease-relevant assays.

Sirenas will pick up an undisclosed upfront fee from Bristol-Myers, as well as research funding and potential “success fees,” according to a statement. If all goes well, Bristol-Myers will have the option to strike a licensing deal for compounds identified in the partnership, and Sirenas will stand to earn milestone payments and royalties.

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"We believe science-focused biopharma companies can benefit from our innovative approaches to access breakthrough chemistry in delivering drug candidates for difficult biological targets," said Sirenas CEO and cofounder Jake Beverage, PharmD., in the statement. "We look forward to a fruitful collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb, one of the finest drug discovery teams in the world, to identify potential new therapies to treat the world's highest unmet medical needs."

Sirenas has previously joined forces with Calibr, a translational research organization, on drug discovery for immunology, oncology and neglected diseases. And last December, the company bagged a $1.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop Atlantis, with an eye on identifying potential candidates for infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis.

Bristol-Myers has been on the prowl for deals to boost its early-stage pipeline; back in August, the company snatched up immuno-oncology startup IFM Therapeutics in a deal worth up to $2.3 billion. But rumors have been swirling about its own buyout at the hands of Pfizer, with analysts coming down on both sides.