2020-06-06| R&DTechnology

AstraZeneca, Accent Ink $55M Partnership for Small Molecules Targeting RNA Modifying Proteins

by Ruchi Jhonsa
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By Ruchi Jhonsa, Ph.D.

Just weeks after Roche cracked a deal with Vividion therapeutics for leveraging its small molecule discovery (SMD) platform churning E3 ligase inhibitors, AstraZeneca announced that it has made a pact with Accent Therapeutics, an SMD company that develops small molecules targeting RNA modifying proteins (RMP). The two will combine their expertise in the field of cancer biology and small molecule discovery and jointly develop and commercialize the small molecules targeting various cancer indications.


RNA Modifying Proteins

RNA modifying proteins are an assembly of proteins that add modifications to the RNA (writers), remove modifications from the RNA (erasers), and read modifications on the RNA (readers). The chemical modification of RNA is an efficient way of regulating its molecular function. In simple terms, these modifications determine which RNA will be translated into cell proteins and when. Increasing evidence suggests that RNA modification pathways are misregulated in human cancers and may be an ideal target of cancer therapy.

Accent Therapeutics was founded on this idea and is undertaking systematic chemical biology to characterize and target compelling RNA modifications for developing precision cancer therapeutics. Their technology identifies the most critical RMP targets for specific human cancer indications and matches them with novel small molecule inhibitors.

José Baselga, Executive Vice President, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca said: “The promise of RMP inhibition is a compelling area of exploration for AstraZeneca. With this collaboration, we will seek to identify novel targets and unlock the full potential of our medicines. We believe that the Accent team’s expertise in RNA-modifying protein biology and drug discovery complements AstraZeneca’s extensive research and development portfolio.”


What is in it for Accent Therapeutics?

With the deal, Accent gains partnership with one of the leading experts in cancer therapeutics, which will give a big push to all its existing drug discovery programs. Besides the scientific know-how, the company will gain monetary benefits of $55M for the early phase of research and development for a nominated preclinical program through to the end of Phase 1 clinical trials. It is also eligible to receive additional benefits in the form of option fees, milestone payments, and royalties on the sale of the products. Although AstraZeneca will take charge of the second of the development of the program, Accent will have an option to join this process. In case, it decides to join the commercialization and development of the nominated program then it will have to split the profits and losses with AstraZeneca in the US.


What is in it for AstraZeneca?

AstraZeneca has a deep-rooted heritage in oncology and offers multiple medications to treat various cancer indications. To expand its portfolio, the company regularly indulges in innovative technologies to combat deadly cancer indications. The deal with Accent is one such example. The company believes that inhibiting key processes including RNA modification will advance the next wave of innovation in cancer treatment. According to the deal, while Accent will lead the first half of the program, AstraZeneca will take the lead in the second half, which includes development and commercialization activities for the program. Additionally, AstraZeneca will be able to exclusively license Accent’s two other preclinical discovery programmers which are yet undisclosed.

Shakti Narayan, CEO, Accent Therapeutics said: “This collaboration leverages both AstraZeneca’s vast cancer expertise and resources and Accent’s rich pipeline of RMP therapeutic programs to bring new and potentially life-changing medicines to patients. This collaborative effort will enable us to rapidly advance and achieve the rich therapeutic potential of these exciting programs.”

It is not yet known, which targets the two, will jointly develop but according to Dr. Narayan, the targets overlap with Accent’s pipeline. The company already has 5 targets in the pipeline, two of which are METTL3/14, a type I RNA methyltransferase, and adenosine to inosine editor, ADAR1.

Related Article: ASCO 2020: AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s Enhertu Impresses with Benefits in Lung, Stomach and Colorectal Cancer Trials



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