Bayer bolsters R&D platform with $2bn Vividion takeover

Bayer headlined its second-quarter results this morning by unveiling a deal to buy Vividion Therapeutics, saying it will boost its ability to develop medicines against targets once considered “undruggable”.

Bayer is paying $1.5 billion upfront to claim ownership of Vividion‘s drug discovery platform, which uses chemoproteomics to identify new binding sites on proteins and find small-molecule compounds that interact with them, with another $500 million on the table if pipeline candidates meet targets.

Vividion’s in-house R&D efforts are still at the preclinical stage, but include drug candidates in oncology and immune diseases targeting transcription factors – which are involved in the process of transcribing DNA into RNA and thereafter into proteins.

The San Diego-based biotech’s pipeline is headed by compounds that either block or activate NRF2, a transcription factor involved in immuno-inflammatory responses.

Some forms of cancer are associated with NRF2 mutations that make tumours more aggressive and treatment resistant, which could potentially be treated with inhibitors.

Meanwhile, as NRF2 seems to stimulate the expression of inflammation-suppressing genes, Vividion is exploring the use of activators of the transcription factor to reduce cellular damage and stimulate tissue repair in indications like inflammatory bowel disease.

Following after are discovery programmes looking at STAT3, a transcription factor that like NRF2 has potential in cancer and immunological disorders, and Werner helicase, which has potential in tumours with a defect in DNA repair processes known as microsatellite instability (MSI).

“Vividion’s unique technologies and special expertise will significantly strengthen our drug discovery capabilities,” said Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann.

Vividion is the latest in a series of bolt-on deals Bayer has signed in the last few months to bulk up its pipeline.

In June, it reached a deal to acquire Noria Therapeutics and its subsidiary PSMA Therapeutics, adding to its pipeline of radionuclide drugs for cancer, and at the end of last year partnered with Atara on mesothelin-targeted CAR-T cell therapies for solid tumours.

Last year it also closed a $4 billion takeover of UK-based Asklepios BioPharmaceutical, which became the foundation of a specialist cell and gene therapy unit at the German group, and bought women’s health specialist KaNDy Therapeutics for up to $875 million.

Bayer recorded a healthy 16% growth in sales at its pharma division in the second quarter to just under €4.5 billion ($5.3 billion), thanks to another strong performance from ophthalmic disease blockbuster Eylea (aflibercept) and “tangible growth” for prostate cancer drug Nubeqa (darolutamide).

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