Vernalis, Daiichi form oncology drug discovery collaboration

Research
Vernalis' platform is designed to identify molecules with low molecular weights that interact with the binding site of the target.

Daiichi Sankyo has tapped Vernalis for its drug discovery expertise. The agreement will see Vernalis turn its fragment and structure-based drug discovery platform on undisclosed cancer targets.

Japan’s Daiichi is making undisclosed financial commitments to access the platform. Previous deals suggest the sum will be fairly small, at least in the near term. Servier paid €2 million ($2.4 million) upfront and committed more in fees, milestones and other payments to strike a one-target cancer agreement based on the same drug discovery platform in March.

The platform is designed to identify molecules with low molecular weights that interact with the binding site of the target. Identification of these fragments gives researchers a starting point for their efforts to develop ligands and drugs. 

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Vernalis is using the platform in active drug discovery collaborations with companies including Servier and Lundbeck. And it has a history of working with other well-known drug developers such as Genentech and Novartis. 

Management celebrated adding Daiichi to the list.

“This is another excellent endorsement of our market leading fragment and structure-based drug discovery platform and we look forward to a successful collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo,” Vernalis CEO Ian Garland said in a statement. 

The new deals with Daiichi and Servier—plus milestones from other agreements with the French drugmaker—have been bright spots for Vernalis in a tricky year, although they have failed to fully lift the gloom.     

Vernalis’ woes stem from the back-to-back FDA rejections it received in April and August. Those setbacks quashed Vernalis’ hopes of getting CCP-07 and CCP-08 to market in time for this winter’s cough-cold season in the U.S. 

The challenge now is to work through the problems—which have a common cause—that led to the complete response letters in time to get the drugs approved ahead of the 2018-19 cough-cold season.