Tesaro and the Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center said today they will partner to discover and develop small molecule candidates against undisclosed immuno-oncology targets.

The collaboration—whose value was not disclosed—is the first by IACS to focus specifically on small molecule drug discovery. The partners said they plan to identify their first clinical candidate in early 2017.

The alliance is designed to combine MD Anderson’s expertise in drug discovery and translational medicine with Tesaro’s capabilities in oncology drug development and commercialization.

MD Anderson will oversee conducting research aimed at identifying clinical candidates with defined characteristics targeting certain immuno-oncology targets. Tesaro has agreed to fund research, development, and commercialization expenses for the collaboration.

In return, Tesaro will receive exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize any small molecule product candidates resulting from the collaboration.

“We intend for this partnership to expand and complement Tesaro’s existing portfolio of immuno-oncology programs and we continue to believe that immuno-oncology will transform our approach to cancer therapy,” Tesaro President and COO Mary Lynne Hedley, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Tesaro’s immune-oncology portfolio focuses on developing antibodies to immune checkpoint receptors designed to block the interaction of programmed death-1 (PD-1), T-cell immunoglobulin, mucin domain-3 (TIM-3), and lymphocyte activation gene-3 (LAG-3) with their respective ligands, with the goal of restoring immune anti-cancer function in patients across a variety of tumor types.

IACS’ mission calls for rapid advancement of “impactful” therapies into clinical practice. Established in November 2011, IACS has been operational since January 2012, and is expected to advance its first project—IACS-010759, an inhibitor of oxidative phosphorylation for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia—toward an Investigational New Drug (IND) application during the second quarter of this year.

IACS is one of 10 research initiatives or “platforms” supporting MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program, announced in 2012. Moon Shots consists of a series of partnerships designed to speed up translation of scientific discoveries into clinical advances that significantly reduce cancer deaths.

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