For the second time in two years, pharmaceutical bigwig Glaxo has strengthened its ties with Anglo-German company Cellzome, by signing a deal worth up to €475 million (US$644.3 million). The collaboration gives GSK an exclusive right to Cellzome’s epigenetics platform technology in the discovery of oral small-molecule drugs for treating immuno-inflammatory diseases.
The deal kicks off with a €33 million up-front payment that includes technology access fees and the purchase of equity. “That’s followed by various development milestones: To reach the [total] dollar figure, we’d need to be successful in all the programs,” said CEO Tim Edwards.
Epigenetics is an emerging field that promises to find new approaches to treat inflammatory diseases, especially by using histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors and methyltransferases. The GSK-Cellzome strategic alliance is the first of its kind pharma-biotech company alliance to apply epigenetics in inflammatory diseases.
Cellzome’s Episphere technology has made it possible to come up with “super selective, next-generation” hits, and has opened the door to address chronic degenerative diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease, through epigenetic targets. The aim of this tie-up is therefore to identify hits against four different epigenetic target classes, sharing operational responsibility until candidates are identified, at which point London-based GlaxoSmithKline will take over all preclinical and clinical development as well as commercialization.
The previous deal signed in September 2008 focussed on the discovery and development of kinase inhibitors in immuno-inflammatory diseases. The present deal with Glaxo puts Cellzome in a leading position in the next wave in biology with more and more pharma companies becoming interested in the field.
Cellzome’s backers include Advent International, Atlas Venture, Astellas Venture Capital, Biofrontier Partners, Heidelberg Innovation, Index Ventures, Invesco Private Capital, SV Life Sciences, SG Asset Management and Sofinnova Partners.