JPM23: Schrödinger expands neuroscience work with BMS, Otsuka partnerships

The artificial intelligence-powered drug designer Schrödinger is growing its to-do list, with two Big Pharma collaborations focused in neuroscience.

With Bristol Myers Squibb, the company is expanding its previous partnership to include a new discovery program in neurology. Schrödinger previously inked a research deal with the drugmaker in late 2020, with plans to explore pharmaceutical targets in kidney cancer and KRAS-driven tumors, as well as other diseases in neurology and immunology.

That agreement started with Schrödinger collecting $55 million upfront, but the total could balloon up to $2.7 billion if the programs pay off and deliver new approved treatments. In a release on the first day of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Schrödinger said the new addition to the collaboration would follow a similar structure, though exact figures were not disclosed.

Simultaneously, Schrödinger announced a multi-part deal with Otsuka Pharmaceutical and its Astex Pharmaceuticals subsidiary—including discovery work in “an emerging CNS disease target,” plus a licensing deal that will employ Schrödinger’s AI platform at a new Otsuka drug discovery facility. 

Under the partnership, Schrödinger will handle the drug design and lead optimization stages, after which Otsuka will take charge of further drug discovery and clinical development work. Schrödinger received an unspecified upfront payment, and could receive discovery, development and regulatory milestones, as well as tiered sales royalties.

Meanwhile, Schrödinger reported it would also tackle a new in-house program in Parkinson’s disease. After generating cryo-electron microscopy structures last year of the protein LRRK2, found in the brain and other tissues, the company said it plans to select a candidate inhibitor for development in 2024.

That work followed Schrödinger’s January 2022 acquisition of XTAL BioStructures, a small company that specialized in using X-ray crystallography to map out the shapes of target proteins.

Last year also saw Schrödinger begin enrolling its first patients in a phase 1 clinical trial for its computer-designed drug aimed at relapsed or refractory B cell blood cancers.

Dubbed SGR-1505, the molecule looks to block MALT1, a target that helps drive one of the pathways governing immune responses, but which can also be hijacked to power the out-of-control growth of cancer cells. 

According to Schrödinger, its machine learning-powered platform analyzed 8.2 billion potential compounds over a period of 10 months, before identifying 78 potential winners. They were synthesized and filtered down through preclinical experiments to select the most promising candidate.