X-Chem said today it licensed to Bayer Pharma an early-stage drug discovery program directed against an epigenetic drug target, after achieving an unspecified success milestone in the multitarget collaboration launched by the companies in July 2012, and not disclosed until now.

Financial terms of the licensing agreement were undisclosed, as were details of the compound licensed. Bayer has an exclusive option to license programs generated through the collaboration, under which each X-Chem program licensed by Bayer will receive an upfront exercise fee in addition to payments based on the achievement of defined preclinical, clinical, and sales milestones, plus royalties.

Bayer agreed to provide an upfront payment and ongoing research funding under the collaboration, with X-Chem agreeing in return to apply its DNA-encoded small molecule library and discovery engine to identify leads to several Bayer targets from several unspecified classes and therapeutic areas.

X-Chem’s drug discovery platform uses a library generated by iterative combinatorial synthesis of small molecules tethered to DNA tags that record the synthetic history of their small molecule. Every small molecule in the library has a unique DNA barcode attached to it. The library is screened as a mixture using affinity-based binding to a target of interest. Molecules that bind to the target can be fished out, while the rest wash away. The platform uses DNA sequencing to detect molecules that are enriched when bound to the target.

The process is intended to yield a much greater repertory compared to traditional screening methods of diversity for small molecules, which include fragment molecules, small molecular weight heterocyclic compounds, and macrocyclic structures. X-Chem credits its diverse library, combined with a heightened ability to detect active molecules, with success against targets long viewed as difficult or intractable.

“Epigenetic targets are of increasing interest for treating cancer and other life-threatening disorders, yet are particularly challenging from a drug discovery perspective,” X-Chem CEO Rick Wagner, Ph.D., said in a statement. “X-Chem has built its library and discovery platform to meet the challenges of tackling these highly difficult targets and enabling the discovery of multiple chemical series directly out of our primary screens.

X-Chem said its financial terms with Bayer were “commensurate with terms X-Chem has established in its collaborations with other large pharmaceutical companies.”

The company has partnerships with Roche, AstraZeneca, and several other biopharmas, academic centers, and research institutions. In September, AstraZeneca licensed three drug discovery programs resulting from its collaboration with X-Chem—each focused on an oncology protein-protein interaction (PPI) target, a respiratory/inflammation PPI target, and an antibacterial target. A week later, X-Chem and AstraZeneca expanded their research collaboration from two to five years, with X-Chem agreeing to conduct drug discovery on at least 10 therapeutic targets per year going forward.

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