Japan's Ono Pharma taps Texas startup Shattuck for $227M bifunctional fusion protein deal

Shattuck Labs’ pipeline of bifunctional fusion proteins has caught the attention of Ono Pharmaceutical, with the Japanese drug developer penning a $227 million biobucks deal focused on autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Under the agreement, Ono will select a pair of targets from Shattuck’s portfolio with an exclusive option to develop and commercialize “multiple products.” In return, Texas-based Shattuck will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and be in line for licensing, regulatory and commercial milestones which could add up to $227 million in total, along with tiered royalties on any approved products.

“We have prioritized autoimmune and inflammatory diseases for a select group of preclinical pipeline candidates as we continue to expand into areas of high unmet need,” Shattuck’s CEO Taylor Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D., explained in the release. “This collaboration aligns with our strategy to unlock further value from our bifunctional fusion protein platform and scientific expertise.”

Bifunctional proteins have attracted Big Pharma interest in the past, with GSK and Merck KGaA partnering up to work on bintrafusp alfa in 2019. Those efforts, designed to combine a TGF-β trap with the anti-PD-L1 mechanism in one fusion protein, ended in a high-profile failure two years later and the collaboration was dissolved in the wake of a series of clinical setbacks.

Still, Ono—which co-developed Bristol Myers Squibb’s blockbuster PD-1 drug Opdivo—appears to see potential in the modality. Toichi Takino, senior executive officer for discovery and research at the company, expressed admiration for Shattuck’s “generation of functional biologics against therapeutic targets that have been difficult through conventional technologies.”

“We hope to add bifunctional fusion proteins discovered and developed by Shattuck into our portfolio to bring innovative drugs for patients suffering from autoimmune and inflammatory diseases as soon as possible,” Takino added.