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Skyhawk Inks Deal With Genentech for Cancer and Neuro Drug Discovery

Xconomy Boston — 

Skyhawk Therapeutics has added Genentech to the growing list of companies it’s working with to find new drugs.

The deal with Genentech, a Roche subsidiary, calls for Cambridge, MA-based Skyhawk to use its technology to discover and develop RNA-targeting drugs for cancer and neurological diseases. Under the deal announced Tuesday, Genentech receives an exclusive license to further develop and commercialize compounds that emerge from the partnership. Skyhawk gets an unspecified upfront payment, plus milestone payments tied to the progress of the programs. If any of them reach the market, Skyhawk would receive royalties from sales.

The companies did not disclose details of the payments to Skyhawk other than to say that they could total $2 billion over time. The deal calls for Genentech to be responsible for clinical development and commercialization of drugs produced by the partnership.

Skyhawk’s approach targets RNA, the molecules that carry the genetic instructions cells use to make proteins. The company’s small molecule drugs are being developed to correct errors in the way that RNA molecules are processed, or spliced, by the cell before the cell uses them to make proteins. Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) and Takeda Pharmaceutical (NYSE: TAK) are among the companies that have entered into partnerships with Skyhawk.

The Genentech deal is Skyhawk’s third this month. Last week, the company announced a new partnership with Merck (NYSE: MRK) focused on cancer and neurological drugs. Skyhawk last week also expanded its collaboration with Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) to add targets in addition to the multiple sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy research that was part of the original pact. Skyhawk spokeswoman Maura McCarthy said that across all partners, Skyhawk has received $300 million in upfront payments, and stands to gain up to $14 billion in potential milestones.

Separately, Genentech on Tuesday announced a collaboration with Convelo Therapeutics to develop therapies for multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders. Cleveland-based Convelo is developing a way to regenerate myelin, the protective sheath covering nerves. Genentech is paying Convelo an undisclosed amount up front and will also receive research support. In addition, the deal gives Genentech an exclusive option to acquire Convelo.