C4 poaches new CMO after signing $900M clinical development deal with Roche

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Previously at NIBR, Crystal helped lead early development programs in oncology, as C4 gears up for potential cancer clinical development work with Roche. (Getty/Chris Ryan)

C4 Therapeutics has hired Adam Crystal, M.D., Ph.D., a senior director at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, to be its new chief medical officer and help carry its targeted protein degraders closer to the clinic.

While some of the details of C4’s work, on specific targets and the like, has been kept close to the chest, the former Fierce 15 winner has formed collaborations with Roche, Calico and most recently Biogen—with a deal inked in January totaling up to $415 million for research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

C4’s platform aims to develop small-molecule treatments that harness the body’s naturally occurring pathways for dismantling and eliminating proteins within the cell. By tagging disease-causing proteins for demolition by the cell’s own proteasomes, the company aims to reach classes of targets that have been difficult to reach with traditional means.

Under the new Biogen deal, C4 will assist in researching potential neurological targets, and Biogen will advance candidates for development and potential commercialization. The Big Biotech said it expects to start off by spending $15 million to $25 million on R&D for the project.

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Meanwhile, the company’s five-year-deal with Alphabet and Google’s notoriously secretive life sciences arm Calico is focused on diseases related to aging and lifespan, including cancer. That partnership is also based on preclinical research, with Calico handling any clinical development and commercialization in the future.

C4 also re-upped its $750 million collaboration with Roche at the top of the year, which had been first signed in early 2016 shortly after C4’s founding and spin-out from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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The new terms include a focus on additional cancer treatments, and the chance for C4 to take the lead on early clinical development for specific programs. After reaching certain milestones, Roche will have exclusive, worldwide options to continue drug development, while C4 will have the option of co-developing and co-promoting the product in the U.S.

That’s where Crystal comes in. Before his time at Novartis, where he helped lead early development programs in oncology, Crystal was a medical oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital researching resistance against targeted therapies.

According to C4, the new deal with Roche includes “a significant upfront payment and near-term preclinical milestones,” as well as royalties and future clinical, regulatory and commercial milestone payments that could reach over $900 million.