Forma Therapeutics is teaming up with academic researchers affiliated with Cancer Research UK to discover drugs targeting protein homeostasis regulators, an important pathway in diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.
The collaboration is part of a broader strategy, first announced by the Massachusetts-based biotech in June 2013 when it launched its Asset Discovery and Development Company platform, to create a virtual company that pairs Forma’s drug discovery engine with compelling science from academia. The goal is to translate discoveries efficiently into promising therapies that can be partnered or sold to biopharmaceutical companies.
Under the agreement with Cancer Research UK’s commercialization arm, Cancer Research Technology, Forma and Cancer Research UK investigators will work together to discover therapeutic drug candidates against deubiquitinating enzymes, or DUBs, a variety of protein homeostasis regulators involved in the regulation of cellular processes.
Steven Tregay, president and CEO of Forma, says by collaborating with Cancer Research UK’s extensive network of principal investigators the agreement has the potential to “significantly accelerate our understanding of a key class of enzymes.”
Protein ubiquitination is involved in many cellular processes and its regulation is controlled in part by DUBs. Ubiquitin “tags” proteins for degradation, and DUBs remove this tag, providing a tool for manipulating protein levels, or homeostasis, in a cell. Forma and Cancer Research’s Discovery Laboratories will leverage their combined strengths to explore the protease enzymes that regulate ubiquitin-dependent pathways implicated in cancer.
“DUBs represent an attractive area for drug discovery exploration,” says Kenneth Bair, chief scientific officer and head of R&D for Forma. “As key regulators of ubiquitin recycling, processing, proofreading and disassembly, there is a tremendous opportunity to build a franchise of complementary therapeutics targeting the diverse collections of protein complexes.”
Cancer Research Technology is the first of what Forma Therapeutics hopes will be many more partners using its development model.
“This vehicle,” says Rob Sarisky, chief business officer of Forma, “allows our not-for-profit collaborators to access a capital-efficient engine operating at scale, attain financial returns mirroring their contributions, and collectively advance medical science within the framework of a unified team.”
July 11, 2013