AstraZeneca has signed a collaboration agreement with Scorpion Therapeutics to discover, develop and commercialise precision medicines against previously hard-to-target cancer proteins, with the potential to transform oncology treatment.
The new collaboration focuses on a class of proteins called transcription factors, which control gene expression and can regulate important cellular processes including cell growth and survival. Many transcription factors have long been identified as important targets for new cancer treatments and as drivers of disease,1 but have previously been considered 'undruggable’ using conventional drug discovery approaches.
To overcome the challenges of targeting transcription factors and to reach underserved patient populations, the collaboration will combine Scorpion’s fully integrated discovery platform with AstraZeneca’s leadership in developing and commercialising precision medicines for cancer treatment.
Susan Galbraith, Executive Vice President, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca, said: “Unlocking potentially transformative biology is pivotal for delivering the next wave of cancer treatments. Scorpion’s innovative platform is a strong strategic fit as we explore a range of new modalities across our broad drug discovery toolbox with promise to disrupt the activity of these highly-validated cancer targets.”
Axel Hoos, MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Scorpion, said: “We are pleased to enter into this collaboration with AstraZeneca, whose expertise in drug development and commercialisation complements our discovery platform, which leverages cutting-edge advances in cancer biology and medicinal chemistry, including chemical proteomics, structure-based drug design and machine learning. We expect this collaboration will accelerate Scorpion’s efforts to deliver the promise of ‘Precision Oncology 2.0’: optimised, transformational therapies for more patients living with cancer.”
Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, Scorpion will lead discovery and certain preclinical activities. AstraZeneca has the exclusive option to licence worldwide rights for up to three drug candidates. AstraZeneca would be responsible for development and commercialisation activities worldwide following opt-in, while Scorpion would retain the option to co-develop and co-promote up to two of these programmes in the US under certain conditions, including if AstraZeneca exercises three licence options.
Scorpion will receive an upfront cash payment of $75m and is eligible to receive additional success-based payments in the form of option fees and milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties on net sales ranging from mid-single digit to low-double digits.
In the event Scorpion opts into co-developing and co-promoting a nominated programme, Scorpion will participate in the operating costs and be entitled to a proportionate share of the economics in the US, subject to certain adjustments.
AstraZeneca in oncology
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1. Bhagwat AS and Vakoc CR. Targeting Transcription Factors in Cancer. Trends Cancer. 2016 Sep 1; 1(1): 53-65.