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Incyte inks $13M cancer drug discovery contract

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Incyte headquarters pharmaceutical Wilmington Delaware

Incyte has signed a new contract with Biotheryx to seek new cancer and inflammatory disease drugs. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – Seeking to gain an edge in the race to find a new cancer drug, Incyte has signed a new research collaboration and license agreement with a San Diego firm that utilizes a protein degrader technology.

The Wilmington-based pharma company made its name on Jakafi, the bone marrow cancer drug that has become a billion-dollar find. Since then, many of Incyte’s new drugs have been different derivatives or formulations of Jakafi’s base ruxolitinib drug, but the company could add a new name to its portfolio with the work being done by Biotheryx, a 15-year-old company that developed the Prodegy platform.

Protein degraders aim to use the body’s natural ability to dispose of unwanted proteins to ward off other imbalances that can be harmful, including cancer and inflammatory diseases – key target areas for Incyte’s work.

On April 5, Incyte announced a new agreement with Biotheryx to discover and develop targeted protein degraders for novel oncology targets. It will pay the California firm a technology access fee of $7 million plus up to an additional $6 million in potential research and development funding for costs associated with the collaboration.

Should the collaboration produce a viable drug, Biotheryx would also be eligible to receive potential future regulatory and commercial milestones of up to $347 million plus tiered single-digit royalties on global net product sales for the initial target. Incyte would be solely responsible for further development and commercialization of any molecular glue degraders discovered by Biotheryx though.

“As we work to transform the oncology treatment landscape, Incyte is harnessing breakthrough science that may offer patients with unmet needs new treatment options,” said Dashyant Dhanak, executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Incyte, in a statement announcing the deal. “The Biotheryx team has significant expertise in targeted protein degradation, one of the most promising modalities in oncology, and we look forward to collaborating to develop therapies that can help improve patient lives.”

Philippe Drouet, president and CEO of Biotheryx, noted that his firm’s platform has increased efficiency in degrader discovery, “enabling the development of therapies for previously undruggable targets.”

“Biotheryx and Incyte share a commitment to finding new, transformative treatment options for people living with cancer,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to leveraging this differentiated approach in our collaboration with Incyte and in the continued advancement of our pipeline of first-in-class, next generation bifunctional degraders and molecular glues for the treatment of cancers and inflammatory disease.”

The contract with Biotheryx came just after Incyte’s application for an extended-release formulation of ruxolitinib tablets was surprisingly rejected by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The pills would only have to be taken once a day versus twice for the regular formulation, but the federal regulatory agency said it was seeking unidentified “additional requirements for approval.”

In a note to investors, Mizuho analyst Mara Goldstein argued that could heighten concern for Incyte to diversify its product pipeline, saying, “What we do believe is that this delay could be well over a year, placing further pressure on the company to diversify its dependence from JAKAFI prior to loss of exclusivity in 2028.”

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