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Novartis plays the protein degrader and signs an agreement with a new British startup to access the fruits of new technology


The search for an advantage in the hot space of protein degraders led Novartis to Dunad Therapeutics. By investing $ 24 million and committing $ 1.3 billion in biobucks, Novartis has secured the ability to option candidates against up to four targets its new partner has worked on.

Novartis knows a thing or two about protein degraders. Jay Bradner, the principal scientist at Novartis, was behind a first start-up in protein degradation and has been active in the work of Swiss pharma in this area. So when Novartis looks outside its walls for its expertise in protein degradation, it carries weight. In Dunad, Novartis found a partner among the newer and lesser-known startups in the industry.

Dunad came out stealth earlier this year with funding from Epidarex Capital and plans to use small, tunable monovalent molecules to directly modify targets and thereby enable selective degradation. The startup pitched the platform as a way to create protein degraders that are more drug-like, bioavailable orally, and accessible to the CNS than candidates derived from the alphabet soup of technologies used in other biotechnologies. Novartis’ interest is a harbinger that Dunad may be on to something.

“This agreement highlights the clear benefits that our platform promises for the development of next-generation targeted protein degradation therapies. We are convinced that with our approach of inducing degradation via direct modulation of target proteins with small monovalent molecules, we can significantly expand the limits of targeted protein degraders as a therapeutic modality ”, Patrick Gunning, co-founder and acting CEO of Dunad, said in a statement.

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Interest in protein degraders has grown in recent years, with Pfizer’s $ 1 billion deal with Arvinas cementing the modality’s status as a sought-after way to strike non-drug proteins with others. medications. Novartis is present in space through its internal group, which moved a solid tumor candidate into the clinic in 2019, but has been quieter than some of its peers on the deal front.

To secure the deal with Dunad, Novartis put together a package that includes an upfront payment of $ 24 million and a capital investment, more potentially several times that amount in stages from discovery to commercialization. In return, Novartis was granted options on drugs against up to four targets that Dunad will support to lead the optimization. Novartis will fund the work and provide knowledge on targets and ligands, as well as access to analyzes and models.

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