NEW YORK – AstraZeneca on Thursday said it will pay Scorpion Therapeutics $75 million upfront in a deal aimed at advancing the next generation of precision oncology drugs.
The companies will focus on developing drugs against transcription factors, which are proteins that play a key role in controlling gene expression and regulating cell growth and survival. Researchers to date have been unable to develop treatments that block transcription factors using conventional drug discovery methods.
Under the recently inked deal, Scorpion will be responsible for drug discovery and certain preclinical efforts applying its fully integrated drug discovery platform, which uses chemical proteomics, structure-based drug design, and machine learning.
"Unlocking potentially transformative biology is pivotal for delivering the next wave of cancer treatments," Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca's executive VP of oncology R&D, said in a statement. "Scorpion's innovative platform is a strong strategic fit as we explore a range of new modalities across our broad drug discovery toolbox with promise to disrupt the activity of these highly validated cancer targets."
In turn, Scorpion will benefit from AstraZeneca's experience in developing and commercializing precision cancer medicines. The company has successfully launched several top-selling precision oncology drugs in recent years including the PARP inhibitor olaparib (Lynparza), approved for breast, ovarian, and other tumors harboring BRCA1/2 mutations or homologous recombination repair deficiencies, and osimertinib (Tagrisso) for EGFR-mutated non-small cell lung cancer.
"We expect this collaboration will accelerate Scorpion's efforts to deliver the promise of 'Precision Oncology 2.0': optimized, transformational therapies for more patients living with cancer," Scorpion CEO Axel Hoos said in a statement.
Under the terms of the collaboration, AstraZeneca has the exclusive option to license worldwide rights for up to three drug candidates. If AstraZeneca exercises this option, it would be responsible for further developing the assets as well as global commercialization activities. Scorpion has the option to codevelop and co-promote up to two of these assets in the US under certain conditions, including if AstraZeneca exercises three license options.
In addition to receiving $75 million in cash, Scorpion is also eligible to receive additional option fees and milestone payments as well as tiered royalties on net sales of commercialized products in the mid-single digit to low-double digits.