Amgen has opted to develop a second cancer candidate discovered through Nuevolution’s Chemetics® drug discovery platform under a two-year-old collaboration by the companies, just four months after opting into the first.

As a result of Amgen’s decision, disclosed yesterday by Nuevolution, the Danish-based biotech will receive a $10 million licensing fee and will be eligible for another up-to-$410 million in payments tied to achieving milestones from the biotech giant, which agreed to assume all further research and development costs.

Nuevolution said it will retain ownership of the second candidate until Amgen exercises its right to exercise an exclusive option to license the program.

“The parties will now jointly commence the late-stage research phase with the mutual goal of reaching the future nomination of a clinical development candidate,” Nuevolution stated.

Nuevolution gained the potential for generating the first $410 million in milestone payments in July, when Amgen exercised an option right to the companies’ first Chemetics-discovered candidate, which also targets cancer. At the time, Nuevolution said the first target showed proof-of-concept in animal disease models, and that the companies would jointly begin late-stage research, toward nominating a clinical development candidate.

Amgen “shows very positive progress” in that first cancer program, Nuevolution stated, without offering details.

Chemetics is designed to enable efficient discovery of novel small molecule, tablet-based drug candidates, using a three-phase process to discover targets.

During the synthesis phase, a collection of drug-like molecules is synthesized as a mixture typically consisting of hundreds of millions to billions and even trillions of molecules. Each molecule within the mixture consists of the screening molecule (typically a small molecule), a DNA-sequence (code) (or another type of oligonucleotide), and a linker, which allows the DNA-code, and the small molecule to be physically attached to each other. The DNA-code holds the information for the structure of the small molecule.

During the screening phase, inactive compounds are eliminated and active compounds are isolated for optimization. Nuevolution says its combined small molecules for screening exceed the number of compounds applied by a typical biopharma by a factor of 1,000 to one million.

That is followed by the hit to lead optimization phase (H2L) where compounds are synthesized to further improve their properties. The company says its platform is designed to increase the productivity of compounds by 10- to 100-fold, while lowering the cost for production of each of these by 10- to 50-fold compared to conventional techniques used by biopharmas.

Up to $410M Per Target

Nuevolution says its collaboration with Amgen has advanced to the H2L phase. The companies launched their collaboration in October 2016, with the goal of developing and commercializing novel oncology and neuroscience therapies discovered through the Chemetics platform.

Amgen and Nuevolution have said their collaboration could generate up to $410 million in research, development, and commercial milestones per target identified, plus royalties—but have not said how many targets they plan to identify, except to refer to their “multiple target” partnership.

“We are pleased to see the collaboration progressing so quickly and positively,” stated Nuevolution CEO Alex Haahr Gouliaev. “We are looking forward to further joint research on what is now two programs and potentially progressing additional programs.”

Amgen is one of Nuevolution’s 15 collaboration partners. They include biopharma giants such as Novartis, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Biotech, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck & Co.; as well as research institutions such as Cancer Research Technology and Institute of Cancer Research.

Nuevolution was founded in May 2001, focuses on treatments for severe inflammatory diseases and cancer, and is headquartered in Copenhagen.