HotSpot Therapeutics will receive $40m (€38m) as an upfront cash payment for providing AbbVie access to its drug discovery platform.
The biotech will also be eligible to receive up to $295m in option fees and R&D milestones. The deal includes further commercial milestones and tiered royalties on global net sales of any product that reaches the commercialization stage.
AbbVie will enter into an exclusive worldwide collaboration in return, and will also have the option to license an unspecific discovery-stage IRF5 program for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
Should AbbVie choose to exercise the option for the IRF5 program, AbbVie will take charge of the clinical development, manufacturing and commercialization activities. HotSpot would retain a ‘one-time option’ to share in global R&D costs in exchange for increased royalty payments.
According to Jonathon Sedgwick, VP and global head of discovery research at AbbVie, the drug discovery platform could deliver an “entirely new target class of modulators” for autoimmune diseases. He continued to outline that IRF5 had previously been considered an undruggable target.
IRF5 is a transcription factor that acts as a regulator of certain types of immune responses, and its dysregulation is linked to several difficult to treat autoimmune disorders.
The companies stated that HotSpot has discovered what could be the first and only disclosed small molecule IRF5 inhibitor that targets a pocket on the protein for its endogenous regulation.
Sedgwick noted that systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) could be a particular target for this type of drug treatment.
In terms of how HotSpot has generated a program that can target IRF5, the biotech states it has focused on regulatory regions with allosteric sites called ‘natural hotspots’ that offers potential for drug development.
The biotech’s technology platform, Smart Allostery, has been designed to identify and drug natural hotspots across the proteome. HotSpot’s CEO, Jonathan Montagu, stated that the biotech is building out a ‘substantial pipeline’ of therapeutic candidates using the technology for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancer.
The former therapeutic area is the focus for AbbVie, which has an extensive pipeline of immunology treatments. The pipeline includes multiple potential treatments for SLE, with ABBV-509 being one candidate that has a Phase II currently going through trials in moderate to severe SLE.
Results from the trial are expected by the end of this year, with rival treatments from Eli Lilly, Merck KGaA and Sobi also at a similar stage, but are set to readout in 2023.