Bristol Myers Squibb rounds out its line of protein degraders, which already includes A-Alpha Bio and Evotec, by pairing weapons with a little-known biotech that has been communicating with Celgene scientists for a few years.
Big Pharma invests in SyntheX and presents a $550 million vision for Bay Area seed-stage biotech that was just a “draft on a napkin” in Toronto in 2016, a said co-founder and CEO Maria Soloveychik. Terminal news in preview of the Tuesday morning pact.
Bristol Myers operates SyntheX’s so-called ToRNeDO platform, a name whirlwind that discovers molecular glues to serve as a bridge to novel small-molecule degraders. It is a multi-target deal with a total potential of $550 million being the only figure offered by SyntheX and collaborator Big Pharma. Soloveychik called the deal “the first we can disclose,” suggesting other biopharmacies may have already come through the door.
Thanks to Celgene’s Golden Ticket competition, SyntheX has known scientists from the now acquired company BMS since at least 2018, building that relationship over the years to culminate in today’s pact. The upstart CEO noted that SyntheX was also talking to “a few other Pharmas.”
The small team, which didn’t come out of nowhere, is focused on making the early-stage drug discovery process “a bit more functional, reducing the number of secondary screens we have to do and counter-selections afterwards,” Soloveychik said. Instead of relying on proxy reads, biotech “implements functional selection as a requirement for compounds to come off screens,” she explained.
SyntheX uses genetic engineering to create the cells that give the readings, and the first platform they built does protein-protein interactions. BMS focus’s platform detects protein degradation using specific E3 ligases, she said, noting that it was developed in 2019.
Prior to BMS’s backing, the biotech had been funded by seed investors and “a few small injections of cash,” the CEO said. Backers include SOSV Accelerator, Morgan Noble Healthcare Partners, 8VC, and Oriza Ventures, among others.
The company is about to start raising a Series A, which would likely fuel an entry into the clinic for its internal pipeline, according to the CEO, who noted that science will determine which asset enters human studies first.
Six early-stage programs are listed in SyntheX’s pipeline, including an active KRAS, the much-watched gene behind Amgen’s Lumakras and biotech competitor Mirati Therapeutics.
SyntheX wants to avoid “the single mutation approach which has been seen as really promising, but at the same time there’s a lot of resistance coming into the clinic,” explained the CEO, “so we’re trying to think about approaches orthogonal that won’t be as susceptible to those types of resistance mechanisms when going after synthetic lethals.