AstraZeneca will partner with Accent Therapeutics to discover, develop, and commercialize cancer therapeutics based on Accent’s RNA-modifying protein (RMP) inhibition technology, the companies said today, through a collaboration that could generate more than $1.1 billion for the Lexington, MA, biopharma.

The partnership is intended to combine AstraZeneca’s expertise in oncology drug development with Accent’s focus on small-molecule, RMP-targeting precision cancer therapeutics. Since its launch in 2018, Accent has developed two lead candidates: METTL3 is an RNA methyltransferase implicated in AML, specific solid tumors, and immuno-oncology; and ADAR1, an RNA editor with compelling validation for solid tumors with elevated intrinsic Type I interferon-stimulated gene signaling.

By targeting proteins that modify RNA, Accent reasons, it can effectively apply the proven approach of enzyme-directed small molecule therapies to a new class of enzymes with the ability to impact RNA pathobiology.

Under its collaboration with AstraZeneca, Accent has agreed to oversee R&D activity for a nominated preclinical program through Phase I clinical trials. Upon completion of Phase I, AstraZeneca has agreed to lead development and commercialization activities for the nominated program, with Accent having the option to jointly develop and commercialize with AstraZeneca in the U.S.

AstraZeneca will also have the exclusive option to license worldwide rights to two further preclinical discovery programs, for which Accent will conduct certain preclinical activities.

“A compelling area”

“The promise of RMP inhibition is a compelling area of exploration for AstraZeneca. With this collaboration, we will seek to identify novel targets and unlock the full potential of our medicines,” José Baselga, executive vice president, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

AstraZeneca has agreed to pay Accent $55 million upfront. If Accent elects to jointly develop the nominated program, AstraZeneca would pay Accent an additional up to $1.1 billion in option fees and payments tied to achieving milestones across all programs, as well as tiered royalties on net sales ranging from mid-single digit to low-double digits.

Both companies agreed to split profits and losses in the U.S.

“This collaborative effort will enable us to rapidly advance and achieve the rich therapeutic potential of these exciting programs,” added Accent CEO Shakti Narayan, PhD, JD. “This collaboration leverages both AstraZeneca’s vast cancer expertise and resources and Accent’s rich pipeline of RMP therapeutic programs to bring new and potentially life-changing medicines to patients.

Accent’s collaboration with AstraZeneca comes less than two months after Accent completed a $63 million Series B financing.

The Series B was led by EcoR1 Capital with participation by GV, AbbVie Ventures, The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research, NS Investment and Droia Ventures as well as existing investors, Atlas Venture and The Column Group.

At the time, Accent said proceeds from the financing would be used to advance its development of RMP-inhibiting therapeutics, including METTL3 and ADAR1, and to continue expanding expand its RNA modification pipeline.

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