UNITED KINGDOM – Dunad Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing next-generation targeted protein degradation therapies, has announced a strategic collaboration and license agreement with Novartis to develop orally bioavailable covalent and protein degrading small molecule drugs.

Dunad will collaborate with Novartis to develop novel covalent and targeted protein-degrading small molecule drugs targeting up to four drug targets.

Dunad will use its tunable and highly selective platform to develop novel covalent and targeted protein degrading small molecule drugs focusing on up to four drug targets agreed upon with Novartis.

Additionally, Dunad will be in charge of asset development until lead optimization. The company will be eligible for up to US$1.3 billion in milestone payments and royalties.

Novartis, for its part, will contribute target and ligand knowledge. The Swiss pharmaceutical giant will also provide Dunad with access to proprietary assays and models, as well as full funding for the project.

Novartis will have the exclusive right to develop and commercialize any products developed as a result of the agreement.

Novartis will pay Dunad US$24 million in an upfront payment and equity investment under the terms of the agreement.

Using monovalent small molecules, Dunad’s platform the platform induces selective degradation of disease-causing proteins by directly modifying the target.

This platform is said to be capable of developing degrader therapies that broaden the “frontiers of protein degradation targets.”

Novartis will have exclusive rights to license, develop, and commercialize the resulting oral covalent and protein degrading small molecule drugs for up to four targets under the terms of the agreement. Norvatis will also tap into Dunad’s platform to create these new drugs.

Protein degradation has piqued the interest of biopharma titans in recent years. Eli Lilly paid a US$35 million upfront payment to Lycia Therapeutics in August to use Lycia’s lysosomal targeting chimera (LYTAC) protein degradation technology for up to five targets in Lilly therapeutic areas including immunology and pain.

More companies such as PhoreMost and Kymera Therapeutics have invested resources to build pipelines centered on this field.

Pfizer agreed to a US$1 billion deal with Connecticut-based Arvinas earlier this year to develop and commercialize its PROTAC estrogen receptor protein degrader. Novartis will carve out its own stake in the intriguing modality with the Dunad deal.

Arvinas and Bayer have formed a joint venture to develop targeted protein degraders for agricultural applications. The deal is worth up to US$110 million.

Dunad’s co-founder and acting chief executive officer and chief scientific officer Patrick Gunning, Ph.D., expressed his excitement about the partnership with Novartis.

This deal highlights the clear benefits our platform promises for the development of next-generation targeted protein degrader therapeutics. We are confident that with our approach of inducing degradation via direct modulation of target proteins with mono-valent small molecules, we can significantly expand the boundaries of targeted protein degraders as a therapeutic modality.”

Diana Kraskouskaya, Ph.D., co-founder and chief operating officer of Dunad, noted that the collaboration with Novartis is a significant milestone for the young company.

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