Celgene will team up with Nurix to discover, develop, and commercialize new small molecule therapeutics in oncology, inflammation, and immunology—including immuno-oncology, Nurix said today. The collaboration will generate for Nurix $150 million-plus upfront, plus up to $405 million-plus per drug developed.

Nurix said it will work exclusively with Celgene to advance new therapies that function through the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) to modulate protein homeostasis.

“With a shared vision to create a new class of drugs that work by selectively modulating cellular protein levels, we have designed a transformative collaboration that empowers Nurix to move its pipeline from discovery through development and commercialization,” Nurix CEO and board director Arthur T. Sands, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement. “Celgene is the ideal partner for Nurix to fully realize the potential of our unique drug discovery engine for small molecule activators and inhibitors of E3 ubiquitin ligases and E2 conjugating enzymes.”

Added Thomas Daniel, M.D., Celgene’s president, global research and early development: “This collaboration extends our approach in the E3 ubiquitin ligase space, and provides a highly complementary effort addressing important targets in oncology and immune-inflammatory diseases.”

Celgene agreed to pay Nurix $150 million upfront plus an undisclosed equity investment, in return for an option to license future programs, with the ability to extend the option to license term for additional payments. During the option period, Nurix will focus on investigating E3 ubiquitin ligases and E2 conjugating enzymes to identify the most promising drug discovery programs for use in oncology or inflammation and immunology therapeutic applications. Nurix said it will control and is responsible for all drug discovery and development activities through the end of Phase 1 clinical trials.

If Celgene agrees to license global development and commercialization rights to a program, it will in return pay Nurix an option fee, potential clinical, regulatory and sales milestone payments, all totaling up to $405 million; as well as future tiered single-digit to low double-digit royalties on global sales.

Celgene will have worldwide rights to collaboration products, with the exception of certain collaboration products for which Nurix retains U.S. development and commercialization rights. These rights include the opportunity for the companies to co-develop and co-commercialize up to two programs in the U.S. (50:50 profit / loss split), with Celgene retaining outside-the-U.S. rights, in exchange for an option fee, milestone payments and royalties on ex-U.S. sales on a program-by-program basis.

Nurix added that it retains worldwide rights for candidates not optioned by Celgene under the collaboration.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Nurix was founded by three investigators specializing in ubiquitin proteasome research: John Kuriyan, Ph.D., and Michael Rapé, Ph.D., both of University of California, Berkeley; and Arthur Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., of University of California, San Francisco. Drs. Kuriyan and Weiss are Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators; Dr. Rapé holds the additional position at UC Berkeley of Howard Hughes Investigator.

Nurix has been funded by Third Rock Ventures and The Column Group.

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