Roche pays $50M upfront to Monte Rosa in molecular glue deal fit for a QuEEN

Roche has signed its second molecular glue deal in a month, this time paying $50 million upfront to Monte Rosa Therapeutics for the use of its QuEEN platform to target cancer and neurological diseases previously considered out of reach.

Monte Rosa will employ the molecular glue degrader platform to work on therapies for targets “previously considered impossible to drug,” the Boston-based biotech said in a Oct. 17 release.

Beyond the upfront payment, the company is eligible to receive milestone payments that could top $2 billion as well as royalties should any resulting therapies make it to market. Roche also has the option of expanding the collaboration to additional targets within the next two years, for which further payments would be piled on.

Monte Rosa will lead on the discovery and preclinical activities “to a defined point,” it explained in the release, with Roche getting the exclusive rights to take the resulting candidates through further preclinical development and into the clinic.

“Our QuEEN discovery engine, a highly validated and industry-leading molecular glue degrader platform, has been the cornerstone for Monte Rosa’s success, driving the discovery and development of our exquisitely selective MGDs successfully into the clinic,” CEO Markus Warmuth, M.D., said in the release. “This collaboration will enable and accelerate expansion of our platform into neuroscience and additional areas of oncology.”

The deal comes less than a month after Roche entered the molecular glue space with a similarly structured deal. Back in September, it was Boston-based Orionis that received $47 million upfront—with the promise of $2 billion in milestones—from Roche’s Genentech unit as part of a multiyear pact revolving around its Allo-Glue platform.

In today’s release, James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., global head of pharma partnering at Roche, described molecular glue degraders as “a powerful new class of small molecules that target disease-related proteins that traditional approaches have been unable to address.”

“Together with Monte Rosa, we look forward to tackling high-value targets in both oncology and neuroscience with the goal of unlocking new therapeutic possibilities," Sabry added.

It was a day of double good news for Monte Rosa, as the biotech celebrated what it claimed was the first demonstration of a molecular glue degrader against a solid tumor. The GSPT1-directed candidate, dubbed MRT-2359, was shown to “significantly reduce GSPT1 protein levels in patient tumors and has shown evidence of tumor size reductions” in interim data from a phase 1 dose-escalation study, Monte Rosa said.

“We’re highly encouraged by the safety profile, the depth of pharmacodynamic modulation of GSPT1 in tumors, and even more so by the early evidence of anti-tumor activity of MRT-2359 in patients with biomarker-positive cancers,” Warmuth said in a separate release.

Roche isn’t the only Big Pharma that’s been looking to stick some molecular glue assets onto its pipeline. In October 2022, Bristol Myers Squibb joined up with San Francisco biotech SyntheX to develop and commercialize new small-molecule degraders. In April of this year, Merck & Co. got in on the action through a partnership with Proxygen—an Austrian biotech that already had molecular glue deals with Boehringer Ingelheim and Germany's Merck KGaA.