Fast-growing Forma grabs $815M cancer discovery deal with Boehringer

Forma Therapeutics has nabbed an $815 million deal--$65 million of that in an upfront payment and the rest in pre-commercial milestones--to direct its growing drug discovery engine to new small molecule cancer therapeutics for Boehringer Ingelheim.

The pact marks another coup for Forma, a 2011 Fierce 15 company which has built up an extensive R&D operation designed to serve up new programs to a hungry set of biopharma companies around the globe. In this case, Forma plans to focus on multiple oncology targets over a four-year period. And they've set out to crack some tough cancer cases.

Since getting set up, CEO Steve Tregay tells FierceBiotech, Forma has been building up its skills in tumor metabolism, protein-protein interactions and, more recently, epigenetics, allowing the R&D side of the business to approach a single target along multiple pathways. Forma has about 100 staffers now--a big group by biotech standards--and the company just completed a move into 45,000 square feet of space in Watertown.

For Tregay, who once worked deals for Novartis ($NVS), this new pact also marks the evolution of the company into more drug discovery work as it develops its own pipeline. "We'll screen over 30 targets this year," he notes, and the company is gaining a reputation for fast, efficient work with a range of pharma outfits that includes industry leaders like Genentech and Cubist.

The Genentech deal included some unusual terms, including a new approach to paying out the returns Forma gets from its partner to its investors. And Tregay says that this new deal also has some flexibility built into it in terms of how it can use the money.

- here's the press release

Special Report: Forma Therapeutics - 2011 Fierce 15