Incyte drops Syros blood cancer partnership 2 months after Pfizer does the same in sickle cell

Incyte has ended a five-year collaboration with Syros Pharmaceuticals after seven targets were identified for myeloproliferative neoplasms and none taken back to the lab for further development.

Originally signed in January 2018 and announced during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that year, the companies had agreed to work together on developing potential treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms. This is a group of blood cancers in which the bone marrow makes too many red or white blood cells or platelets. The disease can move slowly with only little treatment required but sometimes progresses into acute myeloid leukemia.

Syros received $10 million upfront and, after five years, that’s all the company has taken to the bank from the research deal. Incyte had agreed to pay $54 million for target selection and option exercise fees plus $115 million in other milestone payments. But since Incyte did not select any of the targets, none of those milestones have or will be paid out, according to Syros' August 9 Securities and Exchange Commission filing (PDF). Incyte would have had worldwide rights to the targets.

It's another round of bad news for Syros, which also saw Pfizer walk away from a sickle cell collaboration in June. The deal originally involved Global Blood Therapeutics, which Pfizer bought in 2022. The partnership is slated to end in October, and Syros pledged to find a new partner for the sickle cell program.

But Syros at least received some compensation for the work, as GBT agreed to reimburse for full-time employee and out-of-pocket expenses incurred in accordance with the agreed-upon research budget of $40 million. Syros will not, however, receive any milestone or royalty payments from the agreement.

In November 2022, Syros also expressed a need to find a partner for the oral CDK7 inhibitor SY-5609 in metastatic pancreatic cancer. The therapy is partnered with Roche in colorectal cancer.