Genentech and Orionis Biosciences team up to discover molecular glue drugs for oncology and neurodegeneration

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Genentech, a subsidiary of Roche, is aggressively expanding its partnered portfolio into cutting-edge areas of research and development. Following a recent radiopharmaceutical-focused agreement with long-term collaborator PeptiDream, Genentech has now invested $47 million to venture into the molecular glue space through a multiyear licensing partnership with Orionis Biosciences.

Under this collaboration, Orionis Biosciences, headquartered in Ghent, Belgium, will leverage its Allo-Glue platform to discover and optimize molecular glues tailored for targets designated by Genentech. Genentech will assume responsibility for later-stage preclinical development, clinical development, regulatory filings, and eventual commercialization.

The partnership includes a significant upfront payment of $47 million to Orionis, with the potential for over $2 billion in milestone payments in addition to royalties.

“Molecular glues represent one of the most exciting recent developments in small-molecule drug discovery. We are thrilled to collaborate with Genentech, a company long known for its world-class science and trailblazing medicines, to make use of technological innovations that we have systematically evolved over the past years to unlock novel target space with such drug modalities. We could not be more excited about the potential for this pioneering collaboration to lead to impactful new treatment paradigms.”

– Nikolai Kley, Co-Founder and CEO of Orionis Biosciences

Orionis Biosciences’ Allo-Glue platform relies on a range of chemical biology technologies to design and optimise small molecules capable of promoting or inducing interactions between proteins within living cells. This includes molecular glues that facilitate interactions leading to target degradation or modulation of target function through direct or allosteric mechanisms.

Genentech is not the only major pharmaceutical company venturing into the molecular glue space. In October 2022, Bristol Myers Squibb partnered with SyntheX, a San Francisco biotech, to develop and commercialise new small-molecule degraders. In April of the same year, Merck & Co. entered a partnership with Proxygen, an Austrian biotech that already had molecular glue agreements with Boehringer Ingelheim and Germany’s Merck KGaA.

Notably, in 2020, Novartis initiated a four-year collaboration with Orionis to apply its technology in designing protein degraders and other small-molecule therapeutics for historically challenging targets.

“Molecular glue degraders are an exciting modality to target disease-related proteins that have proven challenging with more traditional treatment modalities. For patients with unmet needs, this offers a new therapeutic approach to modulate major disease drivers. This collaboration enables us to apply the concept of targeted protein degradation to discover and develop medicines for patients with serious and life-threatening diseases.”

– James Sabry, Global Head, Roche Pharma Partnering

This strategic move by Genentech underscores the growing interest and investment in the molecular glue space as a promising avenue for developing innovative therapies to address unmet medical needs.

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