J&J taps PeptiDream for metabolic, cardiovascular R&D help

Tokyo, Japan, where PeptiDream is based.

Johnson & Johnson has become the latest Big Pharma to turn to PeptiDream for help discovering and optimizing peptide therapeutics. J&J is paying up to $1.15 billion to enlist PeptiDream to aim its peptide discovery platform at multiple cardiovascular and metabolic targets.

To enter into the deal, J&J is paying an upfront fee of undisclosed size and providing research funding. The meat of the agreement lies in preclinical, clinical and commercialization milestones, the value of which could swell to upward of $1 billion in the unlikely event the collaboration hits most of its preplanned targets. As well as cash, J&J is providing the therapeutic targets it wants its new partner to go after.

PeptiDream’s role in the project is to discover macrocycles and constrained peptides against those targets, and to optimize hits to create viable therapeutic peptides or small molecule candidates.

Macrocycles and constrained peptides are cyclic small molecules or peptides with molecular masses ranging from 500 to 2,000 daltons. With the size of such molecules falling in between that of small molecules and biologics, drug discoverers hope they are small enough to enter cells and big enough to interfere with protein-protein interactions.

PeptiDream has benefited from rising interest in macrocycles and constrained peptides. Since the Japanese company formed a discovery collaboration with AstraZeneca in 2007, it has gone on to sign R&D agreements with companies including Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis and Sanofi. PeptiDream has grown into a company with a market cap of ‎¥300 billion ($2.7 billion) on the back of the agreements.

The deals are underpinned by a platform PeptiDream uses to generate a large library of peptides, either constrained or not, and then search for hits in this repository against particular targets. In most cases, this leads to the development of a peptide therapeutic. PeptiDream lists 38 such assets in its pipeline, the most advanced of which is a phase 1 immuno-oncology candidate partnered with Bristol-Myers.

J&J may get therapeutic peptides in return for its cash, but the deal also allows for PeptiDream to generate small molecule candidates. And J&J has an option to pick up peptide-drug conjugates that emerge from the collaboration.