Arvinas, a New Haven, Conn.-based private biotechnology company creating a new class of drugs based on protein degradation, has formed a strategic collaboration with Merck in which Arvinas' novel PROTAC technology will be used to degrade target proteins to create novel therapeutics. The multi-year collaboration will encompass multiple disease targets across several therapeutic areas.
Arvinas will receive an up-front payment and funding to support Merck-related research. Additionally, Arvinas could earn up to $434 million if all research, development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments are successfully paid for products against all the targets initially selected by Merck, as well as tiered royalties.
Merck may, at its discretion, elect to expand the collaboration to include additional disease targets. This decision would trigger an additional one-time payment, as well as payment of milestones and royalties on a product-by-product basis.
PROTACs, or proteolysis-targeting chimeras, are bifunctional small molecules that target proteins for degradation and removal from a cell. These molecules induce a cell's own quality control machinery to bind to a particular protein and "label" it for degradation, thus removing a protein from the system. This contrasts to a more traditional drug development approach that inhibits proteins. However, only 25% of the body's 20,000 proteins can be drugged via traditional methods. Proteins that cannot be drugged via traditional methods can potentially be degraded using Arvinas' approach, radically expanding the number of disease-causing proteins that can become the targets of new drugs.