Vienna-based BioTech Proxygen has signed a multi-year research and licensing agreement with Merck. Worth $554 million.
Proxygen is a spin-off of CeMM (Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences). It develops compounds that use the cellular recycling machinery to target and degrade disease-related proteins.
The company is located at Startup Labs Vienna and was founded by Georg Winter, Matthias Brand, Stefan Kubicek and Giulio Superti-Furga. In order not to depend on rather random discoveries of “molecular glues”, Proxygen developed a screening method to detect new molecular glues. And has signed major partnerships with it.
Proxygen: The Glue Degraders Finders
In addition to an existing collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim, the company has now signed a financially attractive partnership with Merck worth $554 million. Under the agreement, the companies aim to jointly identify molecular “glue degraders” and develop them to the stage of a clinical candidate.
“We are very excited to begin this long-term collaboration with Merck, a globally recognized player in the pharmaceutical industry that shares our pursuit of dynamic innovation for the benefit of patients. The partnership validates the unique potential of Proxygen’s Glue Degrader platform and strategically leverages our combined strengths in targeted protein degradation,” said Bernd Boidol, CEO of Proxygen.
Targeted protein degradation
To explain, molecular “glue degraders” redirect the cell’s own quality control machinery to disease-causing proteins and cause their selective and complete elimination. Because of their ability to modulate protein classes inaccessible to conventional drug discovery approaches, they promise to unlock a large fraction of untreatable targets and provide innovative therapies for diseases with high unmet medical need.
By optimizing and fully integrating state-of-the-art genomic, proteomic and biochemical technologies, the founding team says it has succeeded in developing a versatile “glue degrader” discovery system.
The plan after the capital injection: the large amount of know-how and data generated in the discovery and chemical optimization of degrader molecules will be used in the future and continuously improve the understanding of this novel modality and help Proxygen expand its pioneering role in this field, according to the founders.