Genentech sticks molecular glue deal with Orionis for $47M upfront

Over the past day, Genentech has been making a concerted bid to expand its partnered portfolio into the hottest R&D areas. Only hours after the Roche unit signed a radiopharmaceutical-focused pact with longtime collaborator PeptiDream, it’s now handed over $47 million to enter the molecular glue space.

The multiyear licensing pact with Orionis Biosciences will use the Boston-based biotech’s Allo-Glue platform to discover and optimize molecular glues for targets designated by Genentech. The Roche unit will be responsible for later-stage preclinical and all clinical development, followed by regulatory filing and commercialization.

As well as the $47 million upfront payment, Orionis will be eligible for over $2 billion in milestone payments on top of royalties.

Molecular glues are small molecules used to stabilize the interaction between two proteins that don’t typically interact. In this morning’s release, James Sabry, global head of Roche Pharma Partnering, described the technology as “an exciting modality to target disease-related proteins that have proven challenging with more traditional treatment modalities.”

“For patients with unmet needs, this offers a new therapeutic approach to modulate major disease drivers,” Sabry added. “This collaboration enables us to apply the concept of targeted protein degradation to discover and develop medicines for patients with serious and life-threatening diseases.”

Orionis’ Allo-Glue platform uses an array of chemical biology tech to design and optimize small molecules that promote or induce interactions of proteins in living cells. “This includes molecular glues that can promote interactions leading to either target degradation (through virtually any ligase) or modulation of target function, via either direct or allosteric mechanisms,” the company explained in the release.

Roche isn’t the only Big Pharma that’s been looking to stick some molecular glue assets onto its pipeline. In October 2022, Bristol Myers Squibb joined up with San Francisco biotech SyntheX to develop and commercialize new small-molecule degraders. In April of this year, Merck & Co. got in on the action through a partnership with Proxygen—an Austrian biotech that already had molecular glue deals with Boehringer Ingelheim and Germany's Merck KGaA.

Back in 2020, Novartis tapped Orionis for a four-year collaboration to apply its tech to design protein degraders and other small-molecule therapeutics against “historically elusive targets.”