AstraZeneca, Aussie biotech outfit ally in $240M-plus discovery deal

AstraZeneca's partnership spree of the last two months has gone Down Under. As the company shrinks its internal research work force, AstraZeneca ($AZN) has tapped Brisbane, Australia-based Alchemia to hunt for small molecule drugs against multiple disease targets.

Under the discovery pact AZ pays Alchemia (ASX:ACL) an undisclosed upfront fee and R&D expenses as well as up to $240 million in milestones and single-digit royalties. The deal gives the London-based drug giant access to Alchemia's high-throughput method of honing in on shapes and binding features needed to modulate targets. Plans call for Alchemia to hunt for compounds against oncology, respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolism, infection and neuroscience targets.

"Alchemia's DSA library and expertise in carbohydrate chemistry are welcome additions to our small molecule corporate collection and early discovery hit finding activities," said Mike Snowden, head of Discovery Sciences at AstraZeneca, in a statement. "We are looking forward to working with Alchemia to maximize the potential of this novel platform in early phase drug discovery at AstraZeneca."

Three biotech companies have announced early-stage deals this week with AstraZeneca, which clearly has been busy accessing technology from external sources as the company pushes ahead with an R&D restructuring plan, announced in March, which is expected to slash 1,600 research jobs. Prior to Alchemia's announcement, Bind Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA, and Horizon Discovery of Cambridge, U.K., revealed juicy deals with AstraZeneca focused on preclinical cancer drug research.

AstraZeneca has focused its deal-making this year on early-stage assets and research collaborations, including its broad tie-up worth $240 million in upfront cash with Moderna Therapeutics for messenger RNA therapies and the purchase of AlphaCore, whose lead cardio drug has been tested in Phase I. Analysts, however, have harped on the thin late-stage pipeline at AZ and its need for Phase III victories before big-selling drugs such as Crestor and Nexium fall off the patent cliff.

- here's the Alchemia release
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