Bayer and Dewpoint Ink Deal for Drugs R&D at New Frontier of Biology

Xconomy Boston — 

[Updated, 12:15 p.m. See below.] Inside of a cell, some proteins and RNA are concentrated in liquid droplets that assemble in formation during a variety of cellular functions. Dewpoint Therapeutics is making headway understanding the role these droplets play in disease, and that work now has Bayer as a research partner.

Bayer and Dewpoint on Thursday announced a research agreement that encompasses this liquid droplet science. The partnership aims to find out whether Dewpoint’s technology and Bayer’s library of small molecules can yield new drugs for cardiovascular and gynecological diseases. No upfront payments or milestone targets were disclosed, but Bayer has agreed to pay its new Boston-based partner up to $100 million in the deal.

The liquid droplets at the heart of Dewpoint’s research are called biomolecular condensates. Their presence in cells has been known for decades, but it’s only within the last decade that scientists have started to understand what they did. Research has shown that biomolecular condensates concentrate proteins and RNA at specific locations inside of a cell, which speeds up key chemical reactions on the inside of the droplet. Molecules that could slow or block chemical reactions are kept out. Dewpoint is based on biomolecular condensate research of its founders, Anthony Hyman of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, and Richard Young of the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, MA.

In January, Dewpoint closed a $60 million Series A financing round to continue its research. The investors in that round included Leaps by Bayer, a Bayer unit that invests in new technologies. When the financing was announced, Mark Murcko, Dewpoint’s chief scientific officer, told Xconomy that biomolecular condensate research could lead to ways of drugging proteins that had previously been deemed undruggable.

Dewpoint is developing small molecules that bind to parts of proteins that haven’t hit by drugs before, changing their behavior when biomolecular condensates form. The company hopes this approach could enable it to target proteins associated with disease. Dewpoint’s internal drug research is pursuing potential therapies for neurodegeneration and cancer, both of which have been linked to biomolecular condensates.

The duration of Bayer’s new partnership with Dewpoint was not disclosed. Under the agreement, Bayer will gain the option to exclusively license a certain number of new drugs that emerge from the research. In addition to contributing its library of small molecules, the German pharmaceutical giant will offer its R&D capabilities. The partners will also expand Dewpoint’s presence in Germany. [Paragraph updated to clarify that Dewpoint’s expansion will be in Germany, and not limited to Dresden.]

Photo by Flickr user Conan via a Creative Commons license