Sanofi Pays Kymera $150M to Kick Off Protein Degrader Partnership

Xconomy Boston — 

Kymera Therapeutics has signed a deal with French biopharma Sanofi to advance two potential treatments for immune-inflammatory diseases that leverage the Cambridge, MA-based company’s research into protein degradation, the natural mechanism cells use to get rid of unwanted proteins.

Drug developers are eager to leverage that cellular recycling system to create new treatments because it is viewed as a way to potentially get rid of disease-causing proteins that have up until now been considered “undruggable.”

Paris-based Sanofi (NASDAQ: SNY) agreed to pay Kymera $150 million upfront for the rights to develop a small molecule drug candidate the biotech has designed to target the protein IRAK4, which the companies believe plays a key role in diseases including rheumatoid arthritis. The focus of that program is hidradenitis suppurativa, a condition in which small, painful lumps form under the skin; atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis are also under consideration.

Under the terms of the deal, Kymera is responsible for taking the IRAK4 program through Phase 1 clinical trials; Sanofi, clinical development and commercialization responsibilities thereafter. Kymera will keep the rights to its IRAK4 program for oncology indications. For its payment Sanofi also gets rights to an undisclosed earlier-stage program developed by Kymera, for which the larger company will be responsible for all clinical development.

Milestone payments tied to development, regulatory, and sales goals could net Kymera more than $2 billion in total. The company will also be eligible for royalties on any commercialized drugs. Kymera keeps the option to share in the US costs and profits of clinical development and commercialization, including promotion, for both programs.

Kymera is led by president and CEO Nello Mainolfi (pictured), one of the company’s founders. In a statement, Mainolfi said the new alliance would accelerate the company’s evolution into a fully integrated biotech, enabling it to invest in “key strategic areas to realize the broad potential of protein degrader therapies” while advancing the two partnered programs.

The company has previously inked drug development agreements with GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX). This new pact comes about four months after Kymera raised a Series C financing round of $102 million, funds it said would facilitate its evolution into a clinical-stage company in 2021.