Phylogica said today it granted a worldwide nonexclusive license for phenotypic screening of its Phylomer® libraries to PhoreMost, in return for obtaining a 7.5% equity stake in the company and commercialization rights. The value of the equity stake was not disclosed.

PhoreMost will use the license to identify new targets in cancer and other diseases, then discover and develop small molecule cancer drugs designed to fight those targets. The resulting pipeline of validated drug targets—most of which will have been drugged for the very first time—will be developed with Phylogica and other pharmaceutical companies to create new treatment options.

Phylogica CEO Richard Hopkins, Ph.D., said in a statement that the agreement has the potential to feed Phylogica's oncology pipeline with new cancer targets and peptides, “accelerating our path to product development and adding significant value to the company.”

Dr. Hopkins said the licensing agreement formalized his company’s longstanding collaboration with PhoreMost’s co-founders—the University of Cambridge research team headed by Ashok Venkitaraman, Ph.D., who is PhoreMost’s chief scientific officer. PhoreMost’s CEO, Chris Torrance, Ph.D., co-founded and commercialized Horizon Discovery, which raised £68.6 million (about $102 million) last year through an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange.

In addition to the equity stake for the license, Phylogica also retains nonexclusive rights to commercialize any functional Phylomer peptides and associated disease targets that are identified by PhoreMost for therapeutics, along with an option to negotiate exclusive rights for such purpose.

The license also caps the number of similar phenotypic deals Phylogica may enter into during an 18-month option period.

Phylogica’s Phylomer libraries contain billions of natural peptides based on expressed sequences of protein fragments that are encoded by the genes of evolutionary diverse microbes, thus representing a new class of biological therapeutics.

According to the company, the Phylomer peptides display exceptional structural stability, specificity and affinity, thereby giving them the potential to address disease targets that are intractable to small molecules and other protein biologics including antibodies.

Among advantages to the peptides:

  • They are sourced from microbes, enhancing their potential to isolate high potency peptides against human protein targets
  • Being of non-human origin, Phylomer sequences have rarely been patented, allowing access to multiple high value targets.
  • They are typically 15 to 50 amino acids in size, significantly reducing their probability of containing immunogenic T-cell epitopes that could result in unintended immune reaction.
  • They can bind these target surfaces with higher affinity than peptides derived from natural target interface.

Phylogica has established collaborations using the Phylomer libraries with biopharma giants that include Roche, MedImmune, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Biotech pharmaceutical division. Phylogica maintains a contract drug discovery partnership business model designed to generate revenue through upfront technology access fees, ongoing milestone payments, and later royalties on successful marketed drugs.

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