Hitting the ground running

HitGen announces second drug discovery collaboration of the year

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CHENGDU, China—HitGen Ltd. and Almirall have announced a multi-target research collaboration under which they will work together to identify novel small-molecule leads for targets of interest. HitGen will leverage its technology platform to develop novel leads for licensing by Almirall. Specficially, Almirall is interested in targets for atopic dermatitis, in hopes of developing novel oral chemical entities for patients who suffer from moderate to severe forms of the disease. Almirall will be responsible for providing the reagents and material necessary for the screening, while HitGen will handle screening hit identification, confirmation and early testing against the selected targets with its DEL Screening platform. HitGen stands to receive upfront payments as well as potential milestone payments, though details regarding the exact amounts of those payments were not released.
“This agreement keeps us on the track to achieve our goal of becoming a leading medical dermatology company. We look forward to [collaborating] with HitGen in identifying new molecules with the potential of becoming new treatment options for patients with atopic dermatitis,” said Dr. Bhushan Hardas, chief scientific officer of Almirall.
HitGen's approach is based on its DNA-encoded libraries (DELs), which the company describes as “hybrid-type libraries that bring together beneficial aspects from conventional combinatorial libraries and display technologies, such as phage display. The practice of “Split & Pool” strategy enables production of huge collections of molecules. Furthermore, every compound in the libraries is encoded with a given sequence of DNA on molecular level. By using diverse actives as scaffolds, HitGen can achieve the chemical diversity and novelty of DELs.”
“Instead of merely pursuing large-size libraries, HitGen has been selecting drug-like and novel chemical structures as scaffolds to build mid-size libraries, which assured the diversity and novelty of the compounds,” the company adds. “Moreover, comparing to traditional HTS library, DNA encoded library contains more compounds, which are much easier to screen against challenging targets.”
HitGen has synthesized more than 800 DELs, according to the company's website, and of those, 40 percent are target-relevant, 25 percent are macrocycles, 9 percent are peptidomimetics, 1 percent are natural products, while other DELs make up the balance. All told, HitGen's library boasts nearly 400 billion compounds.

“We are delighted to enter this collaboration with Almirall, a leading medical dermatology focused global pharmaceutical company.This collaboration further emphasizes the role of HitGen in the rapidly developing field of DNA-encoded chemistry. We will work closely with Almirall scientists to generate novel leads for their innovative research programs to address unmet medical needs,” commented Dr. Jin Li, chairman of the board and CEO of HitGen.
This news comes less than two weeks after HitGen announced a similar collaboration with Sun Pharma Advanced Research Company Ltd. (SPARC). That agreement also entails HitGen applying its platform for the discovery of novel small-molecule leads, with the inclusion of an upfront payment and milestone payments of undisclosed amounts. While no specific indications of interest were released, SPARC's main therapeutic areas include oncology, neurodegeneration, ophthalmology, dermatology and abuse-deterrent formulations for pain medication.
“We believe HitGen’s unique DNA-encoded library-based screening platform, combined with SPARC’s in-house research expertise, shall accelerate our drug discovery efforts. We look forward to collaborating with HitGen to bring innovative medicines for patients with serious medical conditions,” Anil Raghavan, CEO of SPARC, remarked in a press release.
HitGen closed out 2018 with two other similar collaborations: one with the Crop Science division of Bayer that is focused on the issue of crop protection, and one with Biogen that is focused on neurological conditions.

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