PPD’s X-Chem signs multi-target collaboration with Janssen

By Zachary Brennan

- Last updated on GMT

PPD's X-Chem is signing a number of deals with Big Pharma
PPD's X-Chem is signing a number of deals with Big Pharma

Related tags Dna Molecule

PPD’s recently acquired biotech company X-Chem is launching a multi-target collaboration with Janssen Biotech. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.  

The collaboration, which is being facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Boston, focuses on the discovery and development of candidate molecules for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

Under the terms of the agreement, Waltham, MA- based X-Chem will apply its proprietary discovery engine, which is powered by a DNA-encoded small molecule library, to identify novel compounds targeting proteins involved in the inflammatory response.

Due to the size and diversity of the library, X-Chem can discover multiple series of novel, potent and selective lead compounds at an unprecedented rate of success against a wide range of targets, including some that previously failed using conventional screening methods.

For Janssen and J&J Innovation, as for our other partners, we bring the unique ability to unlock targets that are of high therapeutic value, but also notoriously difficult to drug​,” Diala Ezzeddine, EVP and chief business officer, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com. “With our discovery engine fueled by a 100 billion compound DNA-encoded library, we’re able to discover novel, potent and selective lead compounds where others have failed. This enables our partners to build de novo drug discovery programs with the potential for game-changing medicines in virtually any therapeutic area​.” 

The library is generated by iterative combinatorial synthesis of small molecules tethered to DNA tags that record the synthetic history of the small molecule. Every small molecule in the library has a unique DNA barcode attached it.

Certain rare molecules in the library that bind to the target can be “fished out,” while the rest of the molecules wash away, according to X-Chem. DNA sequencing methods are then used to detect molecules enriched when bound to the target. The diverse nature of the library produces multiple families or clusters of related molecules that bind to the target, forming a basis for emergent structure-activity relationships, which can be used by medicinal chemists to guide iterative chemical maturation of a molecule into a drug.

Based on the synthetic history encoded in the DNA sequence information, molecules are then made without the DNA tag attached, and tested for activity in conventional assays.

Janssen has an exclusive option to license the drug candidates generated in the course of the collaboration. X-Chem will receive an upfront payment, research funding and is eligible for milestone payments upon achievement of specific research, development and commercial milestones. In addition, X-Chem will receive royalty payments on the sale of products resulting from the collaboration.

X-Chem’s vision is to leverage our powerful lead discovery engine to enable breakthroughs in disease areas with high unmet medical need​,” said Rick Wagner, CEO of X-Chem. “As we continue to improve our platform’s performance, we seek to combine our discovery excellence with the extensive development and commercialization expertise of collaborators such as Janssen, and to help prime their pipeline with innovative products for the treatment of inflammatory diseases​.”

X-Chem also has established partnerships with Roche, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Alexion, Bayer​ and other leading pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology organizations, and academic centers.

In September 2014, CRO PPD acquired all interests in X-Chem​, while retaining the company’s management team and biotechnology business model. 

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