AstraZeneca extends oncology partnership with Proteros

AstraZeneca has boosted its research capacity by extending its oncology partnership with Proteros biostructures.

German pharma firm Proteros specialises in structure-based drug discovery powered by a cutting-edge discovery engine that can unlock complex and technically challenging disease-relevant targets.

Proteros’s expertise and tools speed up the research process, particularly at the initial drug discovery and development stages. Its work focuses on the discovery and development of novel epigenetic drugs, which it does for the majority of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.

The technology used by Proteros will allow the structural determination of drug-target interactions by X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy technologies. The methods are highly selective and can rapidly home in on specific target variants within and across multiple protein families through biochemical, biophysical and cellular assays.

This new agreement builds on Proteros’s ongoing collaboration with AstraZeneca, announced in June last year, and will include the development of small-molecule inhibitors that can target a second cancer-associated epigenetic protein. In that deal, AstraZeneca pledged up to $65 million in milestone payments, on top of research funding and royalties, to Proteros for the joint venture.

Dr Torsten Neuefeind, CEO of Proteros, said: “The expansion of our agreement with AstraZeneca with an additional drug discovery programme reflects our successful ongoing collaboration to identify selective inhibitors for notoriously challenging disease targets.

“This agreement strengthens our collaboration with a global biopharmaceutical leader and we look forward to joining forces again to discover novel inhibitors with the potential to effectively treat cancer patients in the future.”

Proteros will receive research funding and will be eligible for success-based research, development, and commercial milestone payments of up to $75 million (US) plus tiered royalties on annual net sales.

In a statement, Proteros reported: “The collaboration combines Proteros’s expertise in the identification and characterisation of inhibitors with novel binding mechanisms for technically challenging drug targets with AstraZeneca’s leadership in the discovery and development of oncology medicines.”

In December 2021, Proteros worked with Arbutus Biopharma and X-Chem to identify several molecules that inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 nsp5 main protease (Mpro), a validated target for the treatment of COVID-19 and potential future coronavirus outbreaks.

The three pharma firms will continue to accelerate the development of pan-coronavirus agents to treat COVID-19 and potential future coronavirus outbreaks. They identified the small molecule inhibitors just six months after commencing their collaboration and are currently in the lead optimisation stage, the process by which a drug candidate is designed after an initial lead compound is identified.

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