Roche's pRED jumps into epigenetics with $521M-plus cancer drug deal

pRED head John Reed--Courtesy of Roche

John Reed's Basel-based pRED group at Roche has struck its first epigenetics deal, snapping up rights to Barcelona-based Oryzon's orphan cancer blocker ORY-1001, now being studied in the clinic for acute myeloid leukemia.

The deal bears the classic outline of an early-stage drug research pact. Roche is paying Oryzon $21 million in upfront and near-term payouts, adding more than $500 million in biobuck prizes--plus royalties--if the work proves successful. The pharma giant, which has the largest R&D budget in the industry, gets the development rights to the Phase I/IIa product as well as backup programs. And it gets a shot at stepping into a new field in oncology R&D, where researchers are exploring the therapeutic potential of a technology that can switch genes off and on by modifying DNA without changing the sequence. The lead drug at Oryzon blocks the LSD1 enzyme.

Reed was tapped to turn around pRED after a series of embarrassing pratfalls at the big research group, which is focused on adding to the portfolio of cancer therapies advanced by Genentech, the gRED side of things at Roche. And he's pushing external partnerships like this as a quick way to add the kind of outside innovation needed to carve a path to regulators.

Reed and Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet, the head of Roche partnering, told FierceBiotech back in January that with 36 molecules in development, they were still looking for about 18 more programs over the next year or two to complete the pipeline overhaul. Kornowski-Bonnet said they were willing to spend "up to a few billion, I suppose," for new deals that can add significant new therapies and technologies.

Roche famously shuttered its sprawling R&D center in Nutley, NJ, to reorganize pRED after the Genentech buyout. Roche saved a group of more than 200 investigators in the area and moved the operation to Manhattan. In this deal the New York-based Translational Clinical Research Center gets a two-year collaboration to work with Oryzon on epigenetics.

"Our TCRC in New York has been launched with a mandate to identify partnerships that drive innovation, providing an industry-leading conduit between sources of breakthrough science and the broader Roche organization," Reed noted in a statement. "This collaboration on LSD1 inhibition with Oryzon fulfills that mandate perfectly." 

- here's the release

Editor's Corner: John Reed sets out on a long-distance run at Roche's pRED