Biotech company Gilead Sciences is expanding a partnership with a company using synthetic lethality to discover drug targets in oncology.
Foster City, California-based Gilead said Monday that it would build on the deal it made in 2018 with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Tango Therapeutics. Under the agreement, privately held Tango will receive $125 million in upfront payments and a $20 million equity investment. Gilead will have opt-in rights for up to 15 targets – up from five in the original 2018 agreement – with total payments per program of up to $410 million.
“Gilead has been a valuable strategic partner and a strong scientific collaborator, and we look forward to advancing programs beyond target validation under this expanded collaboration,” Tango CEO Barbara Weber said in a statement. “The productivity of our platform allows us to generate multiple targets for the collaboration while continuing to discover and develop targets independently, with the shared goal of bringing transformational therapies to patients.”
Under the original deal, Gilead paid $50 million upfront to Tango, which was eligible to receive another $1.7 billion in additional payments across all programs in the form of preclinical fees, milestones and royalties. Tango announced that it had raised $60 million in a Series B funding round in April.
Tango describes its approach as “Targeted Therapy 2.0,” emphasizing synthetic lethality, whereby a drug targets one gene, but knocks out a partner gene in cancer cells, thereby killing the cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. The first drugs to use synthetic lethality were PARP inhibitors – such as AstraZeneca’s Lynparza (olaparib) – which inhibit PARP in order to target BRCA mutations. Other approaches include inhibiting PLK1 in order to target KRAS mutations.
The companies said that Tango would continue to use its CRISPR-enabled functional genomics target discovery system to find new immune-evasion targets. Immune evasion represents one of the three core areas of Tango’s approach, the other two being tumor suppressor gene loss and unmarked oncogenes.
Other large drug companies have been exploring synthetic lethality as well. In June, British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline announced a $120 million partnership with South San Francisco, California-based Ideaya Biosciences focused on synthetic lethality. Another firm, San Diego-based Trovagene, announced early clinical trial data in January for its PLK1 inhibitor onvasertib.
Photo: Farknot_Architect, Getty Images