Choosing the right Ensemble

Novartis taps Ensemble Therapeutics for two-part R&D project

Lori Lesko
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—After successfully forming partnershipswith six leading pharmaceuticals to gain access to its macrocyclic technology,Ensemble Therapeutics has formed a strategic development agreement withNovartis for Ensemble's most advanced proprietary program that targets theinflammatory cytokine IL-17, and for a new program to discover novelsmall-molecule treatments against undisclosed drug targets specified byNovartis using Ensemble's proprietary drug discovery platforms. 
 
Under the terms of the two-pronged research and developmentagreement, Ensemble will receive an undisclosed upfront payment from Novartisand potential success-based development and sales milestone payments, accordingto an Aug. 6 news release. In addition, Ensemble will receive tiered royaltieson potential future sales of products that may arise from the collaboration.Novartis will also provide research funding to Ensemble during the term of thecollaboration. Novartis will also provide research funding to Ensemble duringthe term of the collaboration. Both companies declined to discuss thefinancials of this collaboration.
 
 
"We are very pleased to enter into this collaboration withNovartis, a clear leader in the development of treatments for IL-17-dependentinflammation and autoimmune diseases," Ensemble CEO Michael D. Taylor stated ina news release. "Novartis has recognized the strength of Ensemble's orallybioavailable drug candidates against this difficult-to-drug protein/proteininteraction target, and we believe Novartis is the best-suited pharmaceuticalcompany to partner with us to rapidly develop and market important newmedicines for the treatment of IL-17-mediated disease. The discovery componentof our alliance reinforces the mutual commitment to advance candidates fromEnsemble's macrocycle-based chemistry." 
 
This is Ensemble's second global partnership in the lastmonth (the other is with Alexion) and sixth collaboration with Big Pharmaoverall (the company is also working with Boehringer Ingelheim, Genentech,Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Pfizer Inc.) to gain access to Ensemble'stechnology to develop oral, small-molecule macrocycles to address many proteintargets that cannot be modulated effectively by traditional small-moleculepharmaceutical compounds.
 
 
The door opened for significant interest in Ensemble'smacrocyclic technology after the company presented validating data at the 2013American College of Rheumatology (ACR) meeting on its class of IL-17antagonists with the potential for first-in-class, orally active,small-molecule inhibitors of this important, clinically validatedanti-inflammatory target. As a result, the partnered IL-17 program withNovartis is the most advanced partnered compound in Ensemble's productpipeline, the company reports.
 
 
Ensemble has made strong progress in leveraging itsmacrocycle drug discovery expertise to fuel its proprietary pipeline while alsopursuing collaborations with pharmaceutical partners. Ensemble's internaldiscovery and development efforts are focused on the key therapeutic areas ofoncology and immuno-inflammatory diseases. To date, Ensemble has raised $38.5million in equity financing.
 
Ensemble is developing a novel class of therapeutics calledEnsemblins that open up new ways to treat diseases by addressing drug targetsthat are currently inaccessible with conventional small-molecule drugs. Withtheir expansive macrocyclic structure, Ensemblins are a new class of drugs inthe emerging therapeutic space between small molecules and biologics.Ensemblins are orally active therapeutics with unique properties for binding tohuman disease targets such as protein/protein interaction targets, includingtargets with extended binding domains that are currently only addressable withcostly and inconvenient injectable biologic drugs, or that are intracellularand therefore not accessible by such biologics.
 
With its proprietary drug discovery platforms and Ensemblincompound libraries, which now exceed 10 million macrocycles, Ensemble is thefirst company to successfully and reliably engineer synthetic macrocycle drugs,a class of compounds that have traditionally existed principally as natural productsbut have resulted in more than 100 marketed products.
 
 
 

Lori Lesko

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