Roche taps Amunix's tech in $40M non-cancer R&D deal

As Amunix zeroes in on developing its own pipeline of cancer drugs, the company is licensing its platform, which lengthens the half-life of drugs, to Roche for $40 million upfront. The Swiss pharma will use it to discover and develop new drugs outside the realm of cancer. 

The deal is heavily backloaded, as has become custom, with up to $1.5 billion in development and sales milestones. Details are slim, with Amunix saying only that Roche will work on “non-oncology therapeutics against undisclosed targets.” The duo initially teamed up in 2013 so Roche could evaluate Amunix’s XTEN technology, an unstructured polypeptide, to extend the half-life of drugs in the body. 

The partnership comes after a busy December in which Roche inked a research deal with Rheos Medicines around autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, forked over $1 billion upfront for Sarepta’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy gene therapy SRP-9001 and teamed up with the U.K.’s Sensyne Health on using artificial intelligence in clinical trials. 

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“We are pleased to license our technology to Roche to support the discovery and development of novel therapeutics to address high unmet needs across various diseases,” said Amunix CEO Angie You, Ph.D., CEO of Amunix, in a statement. “This agreement further validates our foundational XTEN technology and its continued potential for biopharmaceutical partners seeking to develop drugs with augmented half-life and low associated immunogenicity.” 

Amunix counts Merck, Celgene and Genentech among its partners and said as early as 2015 that its goal was to develop an internal pipeline. That transition was kick-started a year ago with the appointment of You as CEO and Rich Heyman as chairman of the board of directors—they had worked together at Aragon Pharmaceuticals as chief business officer and CEO, respectively, before selling the company to Johnson & Johnson in a deal worth up to $1 billion. 

The Mountain View, California-based biotech will use its licensing dollars to bankroll its internal development efforts. 

“As we continue to pivot from purely a technology licensing company to a cancer drug discovery and development organization, we look forward to Roche and other external collaborators continuing to utilize our XTEN technology for a spectrum of indications while we focus our internal efforts on repurposing this technology to build a pro-drug platform and advance an oncology pipeline,” You said.