GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has agreed to license intellectual property and assets targeted at protein-arginine deiminases (PADs) to Padlock Therapeutics, a year-old startup founded by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute with Atlas Venture. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

Padlock, which announced the licensing agreement today, said it will use the assets to create new treatments for autoimmune disease by targeting the PAD enzymes. Potential clinical applications include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis, Padlock added.

The company reasons that PAD enzymes produce autoantigens that drive the formation and deposition of immune complexes linked to morbidity and mortality in patients with autoimmune disease. Inhibiting those PADs, according to Padlock, may provide a viable alternative approach to treating diseases that include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis.

Under the deal, Padlock will receive exclusive rights to intellectual property, selected compounds in several chemical series, assays, data, and crystal structures developed by GSK scientists. In return, GSK will receive an undisclosed equity grant and observer rights on Padlock’s board.

GSK has identified “immuno-inflammation,” a category that includes autoimmune disorder and arthritis indications, as one of a dozen key therapeutic areas of interest.

The pharma’s immuno-inflammation pipeline, updated in March, lists nine compounds with a total 11 indications.

Two immuno-inflammation compounds are in Phase III development for three indications: The IL6 human monoclonal antibody sirukumab is being studied for rheumatoid arthritis, while the B lymphocyte stimulator monoclonal antibody Benlysta (beluimumab) is in pivotal trials for systemic lupus erythematosus and vasculitis, in addition to Phase II for transplant rejection. Most of GSK’s immuno-inflammation pipeline compounds, six, are in Phase I.

GSK will receive no option to license or acquire Padlock assets, nor will the pharma giant be able to collect any future milestone or royalty payments, according to Padlock.

“We believe that the compounds, methods, and data obtained from GSK, combined with our own internal expertise and proprietary chemistry, create an industry-leading R&D effort focused on the PAD enzymes and will expedite getting PAD-directed medicines to patients with serious autoimmune diseases,” Michael Gilman, Ph.D., Padlock’s founder and CEO, said in a statement.

Dr. Gilman joined Atlas Venture in co-founding Padlock last year, in conjunction with Scripps investigators Paul Thompson, Ph.D., and Kerri Mowen, Ph.D., whose research on the PAD enzyme family formed the basis for Padlock’s science.

Atlas led the $23 million series A financing raised by Padlock and announced in December. Joining Astlas as series A investors were Johnson & Johnson Innovation–JJDC, J&J’s venture capital arm; MS Ventures, the strategic, corporate venture arm of the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA; and VC firm Index Ventures.

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