Bayer is committing $115 million to Arvinas in a partnership focused on turning the biotech’s technology for getting rid of harmful proteins into new products for both human health and agriculture.
According to the deal announced Tuesday, the German life sciences and agtech giant will pay New Haven, CT-based Arvinas (NASDAQ: ARVN) more than $60 million. That cash consists of an upfront payment and pharmaceutical research and development support over the next four years, and an equity investment. Depending on the progress of drug programs arising from the partnership, Arvinas could earn more than $685 million in milestone payments.
The two companies will also form a joint venture focused on developing new agricultural products. Bayer will finance this part of the collaboration with more than $55 million in payments over six years.
Arvinas focuses on proteolysis, also called protein degradation, the built-in cellular process for disposing of old or harmful proteins. Cells mark these proteins for disposal by attaching a molecule to them. The proteasome, the cell’s internal protein disposal system, recognizes the molecular tags and breaks down the marked proteins into amino acids.
The Arvinas technology, called Proteolysis-Targeting Chimera (PROTAC), engineers molecules that tag targeted proteins. The idea is to eliminate a protein associated with disease by tagging it for disposal. This approach is intended to address proteins thought to be “undruggable” by small molecule drugs. Arvinas isn’t the only company developing protein degradation drugs. Others include Kymera Therapeutics and Cedilla Therapeutics, both based in Cambridge, MA.
Arvinas licensed its technology from Yale University. It was developed in the lab of Craig Crews, a professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology who is also the company’s scientific founder. Arvinas launched in 2013 and went public last September.
The Arvinas pipeline includes programs in cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The company’s lead program, ARV-110, began Phase 1 testing in prostate cancer earlier this year.
Arvinas is already working with other pharmaceutical companies. It kicked off an alliance with Roche subsidiary Genentech in 2015 that paid $11 million up front. Under a 2017 expansion of that pact, Arvinas was paid an additional $34.5 million. A partnership with Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) earned it $28 million in upfront and other payments in 2018. The biotech stands to gain up to $37.5 million if Pfizer exercises its options for disease targets under that agreement. The targets for the Genentech and Pfizer deals were not disclosed.
The pharmaceutical collaboration with Bayer will focus on developing treatments for cancer, cardiovascular, and gynecological diseases. Bayer will own the rights to product candidates created from the partnership.
The agricultural joint venture formed by Bayer and Arvinas will use the biotech’s technology to develop ways to address weeds, insects, and diseases that affect crops. Bayer, which operates its North American crop science headquarters in Research Triangle Park, NC, says that because the Arvinas technology degrades its targets rather than blocking them, it offers the potential for creating a new approach to protecting plants. The company says this approach could revive older technologies that have become ineffective because crop pests and diseases developed resistance.