Proxygen, averaging a new collab every 10 months, sticks $2.5B molecular glue deal with Merck

Proxygen’s molecular glue ambitions are continuing to take shape as the Austrian biotech sticks together a third licensing deal in less than three years. 

The company has signed a licensing agreement with Merck & Co. worth more than $2.55 billion in biobucks, according to an announcement Wednesday. How much the biotech is receiving upfront, or how many targets it is offering the U.S. Big Pharma, remains undisclosed. 

It’s the third licensing deal Proxygen has signed with a major drugmaker since December 2020, when the biotech teamed up with Boehringer Ingelheim. Germany's Merck KGaA subsequently jumped aboard as well, offering up $554 million in biobucks in exchange for an unknown number of targets. The deals center on Proyxgen’s potential to churn out molecular glue degraders, druglike compounds that stick problematic proteins with ubiquitin ligase, destroying the protein. 

“There has been a ton of incoming interest from pharma,” said CEO Bernd Boidol, Ph.D., in an interview with Fierce Biotech. “We very specifically and selectively picked the partners we wanted to talk with.” 

Although the company’s pipeline and external workload is unknown, Boidol says he’s not selling the company out and that his team is pursuing two parallel work streams. The second stream, expectedly, is Proxygen’s internal development. On that front, the biotech has an internal asset that is at the end of optimization work. Next on the docket will be producing data that tee up a formal ask to regulators for the company’s first human trial, but Boidol wouldn’t be pinned down on a specific date.

“It’s very hard to comment on timelines because we're trying a couple of different things here,” he said. 

Proxygen has been able to stay under the radar in part because the biotech hasn’t taken any venture capital money, relying solely on grants and upfront payments received from the trio of deals. 

With a handful of external projects and ongoing internal development, Proxygen would appear to have its work cut out, though Boidol didn’t exclude the potential for another deal within the next year and half. He acknowledged that the team has “a lot of things that we're executing at the moment.” 

“I think there will be a lot of developments in the future, be it through another pharma deal or be it through some kind of funding round,” he said, though he clarified that the company is not currently fundraising.  

With Big Pharmas like Bristol Myers Squibb also getting in on the molecular glue action in recent months, the interest in the field only appears to be growing.