Celgene pays $101M to work with Vividion on hard-to-drug proteins

celgene
Celgene has the option to take on the programs once an IND is accepted. (Image: Celgene)

Celgene has paid $101 million to collaborate with Vividion on the discovery of small molecules that hit hard-to-drug proteins. The four-year alliance tasks Vividion with discovering drugs that interact with the ubiquitin proteasome system cells use to break proteins apart.

Vividion broke cover last year with $50 million from ARCH, Versant and Cardinal Partners, technology from Scripps Research Institute and a focus on significantly expanding the druggable portion of the human proteome. The idea is to chemically annotate the proteome to show how drugs interact with proteins inside cells and, in doing so, discover new druggable targets.

Celgene sees potential in the platform. The big biotech is paying $101 million upfront in return for a stake in Vividion and a chance to work with the startup for the next four years. In that time, Vividion will apply its platform to a list of potentially important but tough-to-drug targets involved in the ubiquitin proteasome system. The goal is discover ligands and drug candidates related to the targets.

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The ubiquitin proteasome system tags proteins and organelles for destruction. The dysfunction of this process is linked to multiple diseases spanning oncology, inflammatory, neurodegenerative and other disorders. Celgene and Vividion are focused on those three broad therapeutic areas.  

Vividion will take the lead on the initial discovery activities and the identification of programs to take forward. Celgene then has the option to take on the programs once an IND is accepted. For the first program and certain other assets, Celgene will gain worldwide rights. In other cases, the companies will split U.S. or worldwide development costs and any resulting commercial profits or losses.

The agreement establishes another tie between Celgene and its former president of research and early development, Thomas Daniel, M.D. Daniel helped to get Vividion up and running and now holds the title of chairman at the biotech. Rupert Vessey, Daniel’s successor at Celgene, is impressed by the work Vividion has done to date.

“Vividion has assembled a truly cutting-edge drug discovery platform that offers the opportunity to accelerate drug delivery in new and impactful ways by expanding the druggable proteome and addressing difficult targets,” Vessey said in a statement.