Astellas and Cullgen enter into $1.9bn strategic collaboration to progress protein degraders

James Spargo | June 15, 2023 | News story | Research and Development Astellas, Cullgen, Oncology, protein degraders 

Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas and US-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Cullgen have announced that they have entered into a strategic research collaboration and exclusive option agreement in order to discover multiple protein degraders.

The goal of the agreement is to discover and develop multiple protein degraders by utilising Cullgen’s uSMITE targeted protein degradation platform which features novel E3 ligands, and Astellas’ drug discovery capabilities. Both companies will conduct joint research to identify clinical development candidates.

Astellas will have the exclusive option to license the rights for clinical development and commercialisation of any protein degrader compounds which arise from the research, providing Cullgen with an upfront payment of $35m. Cullgen could potentially also receive $85m with respect to the lead programme, with total compensation exceeding $1.9bn if Astellas uses all of its licence options and all milestones for all programmes are achieved. Cullgen have the option to participate in costs, profits and losses, and the co-promotion of the lead programme ‒ a cell cycle protein degrader for the treatment of breast cancer and other tumours ‒ in the US.

Adam Pearson, chief strategy officer at Astellas, stated: “Targeted protein degradation is one of the primary focuses of Astellas. We hope this collaboration will bring synergies between the two companies’ cutting-edge research, and will ultimately lead to the expansion of Astellas’ portfolio and development of new therapeutics for patients with significant unmet medical needs.”

Ying Luo, president and CEO at Cullgen, said, “We are excited to enter into this strategic collaboration with Astellas using our novel E3 ligands which we discovered in-house. We are looking forward to working with Astellas to advance more targeted protein degraders into clinical development.”

James Spargo

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