Ensemble Therapeutics announces collaboration with Novartis

Companies ink strategic development agreement for Ensemble's IL-17 program

Kelsey Kaustinen
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Biotechnology company Ensemble Therapeuticshas announced the establishment of a two-part research and developmentcollaboration with Novartis. The two companies have begun a strategicdevelopment agreement for Ensemble's most advanced proprietary programtargeting IL-17, and for a new program focused on the discovery of novelsmall-molecule treatments for undisclosed drug targets, which will be specifiedby Novartis and make use of Ensemble's proprietary drug discovery platforms.
 
 
Per the terms of the agreement, Novartis will make anupfront payment of an undisclosed amount to Ensemble, who is also eligible toreceive additional payments if certain success-based development and salesmilestones are achieved. Ensemble also stands to receive tiered royalties offuture sales of products that make it to market as a result of thecollaboration. Novartis will be providing research funding for Ensemble for theduration of the collaboration. No specific financial details were disclosed. 
 
"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," Michael D. Taylor, Ph.D., CEO ofEnsemble, said in a press release regarding the deal. "Novartis has recognizedthe strength of Ensemble's orally bioavailable drug candidates against thisdifficult-to-drug protein-protein interaction target, and we believe Novartisis the best-suited pharmaceutical company to partner with us to rapidly developand market important new medicines for the treatment of IL-17-mediated disease.The discovery component of our alliance reinforces the mutual commitment toadvance candidates from Ensemble's macrocycle-based chemistry."
 
 
Ensemblins are a new class of drugs, as Ensemble notes onits website, "designed with unique macrocyclic structures to incorporate highlevels of affinity and specificity." The molecules have a distributed bindingfunctionality, and are capable of addressing difficult targets such as protein-proteininteractions, phosphatases and proteases.
 
Ensemble's IL-17 antagonists represent its lead program, aswell as potential candidates for first-in-class, orally active, small-moleculeinhibitors of IL-17. IL-17 is an inflammatory cytokine that has been linked toseveral inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis,psoriasis, Crohn's and intestinal bowel disease. In the past, IL-17'sprotein-protein interaction with its receptor has made it difficult to fashionsmall-molecule inhibitors for this target, so therapeutics have been deliveredby injection directed to the ligand. In November of last year, Ensembleannounced that it had positive preclinical data regarding the oral efficacy ofits IL-17 antagonists, with the Ensemblins demonstrating strong oral activity.
 
Ensemble has collaborative partnerships underway withseveral other companies as well, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Genentech,Boehringer Ingelheim and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Ensemble's collaborationwith Alexion's subsidiary was announced just weeks before this most recentagreement. The two companies will be developing therapies for patients withlife-threatening, extremely rare disorders.
 
 
 
SOURCE: Ensemble press release

Kelsey Kaustinen

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