Per the agreement with Merck, known as MSD outside of the US and Canada, Skyhawk will use its SkySTAR, or ‘Skyhawk small molecule therapeutics for alternative splicing of RNA’, platform to develop drug candidates directed at targets for neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.
The technology platform will be employed to discover and develop RNA-binding small molecules that are designed to selectively modify RNA splicing. The molecules are a potential new modality for the treatment of neurological diseases and cancer.
According to Dean Li, SVP of discovery and translational medicine at Merck, “RNA splicing modification offers a new approach to modulating targets previously considered undruggable.”
Skyhawk is eligible to receive approximately $600m (€535.2m) per program from Merck.
Skyhawk will grant Merck the option to exclusively license worldwide intellectual property rights to candidates discovered and developed under the collaboration that are directed to program targets.
Should Merck exercise its option, it will be responsible for further development and commercialization and will pay Skyhawk potential opt-in fees, milestone payments, and royalties on sales of commercialized products.
Expansion of Biogen agreement
Skyhawk will also expand its strategic partnership with Biogen, established in January 2019, to use the SkySTAR platform. The agreement expansion sees the extension of Biogen’s exclusive license to the intellectual property rights beyond the original collaboration’s research-stage therapeutic candidates.
The therapeutic candidates in this agreement include potential treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), and additional neurological disorders.