GlaxoSmithKline pens $120M upfront synthetic lethality cancer pact with Fierce 15 winner Ideaya

As GlaxoSmithKline looks to deepen its cancer R&D, it's penned an oncology development program with Ideaya Biosciences.

South San Francisco-based Ideaya broke cover in 2016 with a $46 million series A round that set it up to run synthetic lethality screens. That entails using genome editing tools to identify pairs of mutations that, when hit simultaneously, lead to cell death. PARP inhibitors such as AstraZeneca’s Lynparza and Clovis Oncology's Rubraca, and of course GSK's own Zejula, bought through its $5 billion buyout of Tesaro, use the same approach.

But whereas those drugs are limited to the BRCA1/2 mutant, Ideaya is looking into other genetic subpopulations.

In the spring of 2018, and after a quiet two years, it then raised a meaty $94 million crossover B round to take its synthetic lethality and cancer immunotherapy programs into the clinic. Riding high on enthusiasm for both its chosen fields, Ideaya added Alphabet’s GV and Roche to a list of investors already dotted with big names such as 5AM Ventures and Celgene.

A year later, it wrapped up a $50 million IPO and later nabbed an FDA IND for its clinical effort IDE196, which is being tested in metastatic uveal melanoma and other solid tumors harboring GNAQ or GNA11 (GNAQ/11) mutations and protein kinase C (PKC) fusions.

The drug is small-molecule PKC inhibitor licensed from Swiss Big Pharma Novartis.

Now, and once more after a quiet period, it's nabbed a new pact with GSK centered on its early-stage lethality programs MAT2A, Pol Theta and Werner Helicase, which are still preclinical but are expected to reach clinical tests “within the next three years.”

Worth $100 million upfront alongside $20 million in stock, Ideaya will lead the MAT2A program through early clinical development and will be responsible for all costs of the MAT2A program prior to the GSK option exercise. After this, the biotech will be responsible for 20% of global development costs.

It can look forward to 50% U.S. profit share and ex-U.S. royalties for the MAT2A and Werner Helicase programs, should they gain approval, and is responsible for 20% of global development costs for licensed products being developed with GSK. 

It’s also in line for global royalties for the Pol Theta program. GSK will cover all research, development and sales costs.

The synthetic lethality research unit is one of four preclinical research units within GSK, and the company will be beefing that up with this very early-stage pipeline bet.

“GSK is the ideal strategic partner for Ideaya, as this partnership enables compelling potential combinations and the opportunity to build the industry leading synthetic lethality pipeline that targets molecularly defined populations in several major solid tumors, including potentially lung, prostate, breast, colorectal, and ovarian cancer,” said Yujiro Hata, CEO and president of Ideaya Biosciences.