When Vividion Therapeutics spun out of The Scripps Research Institute, it aimed to “dramatically expand” the roster of druggable proteins. Now, three years down the line, its efforts have yielded a “huge oilfield with tremendous potential,” its CEO says, so it’s tapping its second Big Pharma partner to exploit that potential.
Roche is handing over $135 million upfront in an option and licensing agreement under which Vividion will discover and conduct preclinical work on programs targeting oncology and immunology targets as well as E3 ligases, which are enzymes that play a role in protein degradation. Roche has the exclusive right to license compounds that come out of the deal at different stages of development, and Vividion can opt into sharing development costs and profits on certain programs.
The pair aren’t disclosing just yet what kinds of targets they’re going after, saying only that they are firmly in Roche’s wheelhouse of immunology and oncology. Vividion stands to reap as much as several billion dollars in preclinical, development and commercial milestones, as well as royalties.
The partnership is centered on E3 ligases, which bind to unneeded or damaged proteins, tagging them for degradation by a protein complex called a proteasome. The ligases can be targeted with bispecific molecules, which contain one region that binds to a disease-causing protein and another that binds to the E3 ligase.
Problem is, out of a family of more than 600, just two E3 ligases have been successfully drugged, which limits their potential, Vividion CEO Diego Miralles, M.D., told FierceBiotech.
“The two in use today can degrade some proteins, but not all proteins,” Miralles said. What’s more, some of them may be expressed in certain tissues, but not others, he said. Vividion is working to add “significant numbers of tools to the toolbox to degrade proteins,” he added. It’s presenting data on what it believes is the third E3 ligase to be drugged in animal models at the second virtual session of the American Association for Cancer Research.
The partnership comes one year after Vividion raised $82 million in series B financing and two years after Vividion signed its first partner, Celgene—now part of Bristol Myers Squibb—which forked over $101 million in a four-year deal aimed at identifying ligands and discovering new candidates against hard-to-drug targets.
At the series B close, Miralles told FierceBiotech that the company's three lead molecules were an adaptor protein, a transcription factor and an E3 ligase. Though he’s still keeping details close to the vest, Miralles said Vividion has been partnering thoughtfully so it hangs onto wholly owned programs that let it hold its own as a company.
“We’re not selling our children. That is very important,” he said.
“This deal puts us in a very strong finance position,” Vividion's president and chief business officer, Fred Aslan, M.D., added. “We’ve raised over $250 million in cash. So, this puts us in a really good place to develop our wholly owned pipeline and continue to support our two great partnerships."