AstraZeneca and Boston biotech unite to blast cancer with a nanotech drug

AstraZeneca has found another partner in an ongoing love fest with biotech startups. The drug giant ($AZN), which is in the process of renovating its R&D wing, has hired on the crafty Cambridge, MA-based biotech Bind Therapeutics to work on a kinase inhibitor nanotech drug for treating cancer.

Bind has struck the partnership pact as AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot pushes his research organization to regain scientific prowess. Bind (a 2008 Fierce 15 company) joins a growing list of lucky biotech startups to win juicy deals this year with the London-based drugmaker, which tapped messenger RNA drug tech from Moderna Therapeutics in March and announced its acquisition of AlphaCore Pharma in early April to secure an experimental therapeutic for cardiovascular disease.

AstraZeneca has agreed to pay Bind upfront and pre-approval milestone fees of $69 million, plus $130 million in payments tied to regulatory and sales goals for the lead candidate in the deal.

Like the AlphaCore and Moderna deals, AstraZeneca's pact with Bind focuses on technology that will take years to bring to market. Bind has done preclinical "feasibility" testing on the lead nanomedicine to prove to AstraZeneca that the asset is worthy of further research. The drug candidate features a carrier particle and a molecularly targeted kinase inhibitor from AstraZeneca. (Bind didn't disclose details about the AZ component of the drug.)

On the deals front, Bind has been prolific in 2013. Earlier this month the startup announced an agreement with Pfizer ($PFE) with $50 million in upfront and development money as well as $160 million for regulatory and sales milestones from any nano-engineered drugs to emerge from the partnership. In January Amgen ($AMGN) tapped Bind's nanotech platform to amp up one of its kinase inhibitors, committing $46.5 million for upfront and other payments based on development goals as well as $134 million in regulatory and sales milestones. Bind also attracted $20 million more from its venture backers to fund Phase II work on its docetaxel-carrying nanotech drug called BIND-014.

In an industry obsessed with precision, Bind has developed a method of programming its carrier particles to bind with protein targets and release drugs at disease sites. Its tech, part of which comes from the lab of MIT biotech inventor Bob Langer, aims to limit impacts on healthy cells and boost the amount of active drug that ends up at disease sites, particularly in cancer. "We view Bind's targeted nanomedicines as a leading technology in this field," Susan Galbraith, head of AstraZeneca's oncology innovative medicines unit, said in a statement.

The pact with AstraZeneca grew from discussions between executives from both companies that began about a year and a half ago, Bind CEO Scott Minick said last week in an interview with FierceBiotech. Their first meeting included senior officials from AstraZeneca, but Minick declined to name names.

"They actually spent a lot of time talking to us about how do [we] innovate," Minick said. "They had identified us as one of the top innovators in biotech, and they really wanted to understand our DNA and what made us so innovative."

- here's the release

Special Report: BIND - 2008 Fierce 15