The week’s announcements began with news from AstraZeneca that it is to discontinue development of six of its preclinical autoimmune/anti-inflammatory drugs at its subsidiary MedImmune, but channel them into a new biotech known as Viela Bio. Viela will receive funding of up to $250 million from a consortium of investors that includes Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, and Hillhouse Capital. Viela’s most advanced product is now inebilizumab, a CD19-targeted antibody that is currently in phase 2b trials for neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.
Following this, Novartis announced that it will team up with Pear Therapeutics in a prescription digital medicine deal targeting schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. Full details of the deals haven’t been disclosed; however, Novartis is expected to work with Pear on clinical trials to test the responses of a mobile phone app, known as THRIVE, in patients with schizophrenia. Novartis will also work with Pear on a second early-stage program targeting multiple sclerosis.
Finally, Celgene has signed a 4-year deal with Vividion, including an upfront fee of $101 million, to collaborate on identifying potential small-molecule drugs using Vividion’s screening platform. Vividion’s approach, based on research by a team led by Benjamin Cravatt at The Scripps Research Institute, enables the integration of two lead discovery approaches that have proved valuable in identifying small-molecule modulators of challenging targets —phenotypic screening in cells and screening with chemical ‘fragments’. The initial focus of the collaboration will be the ubiquitin–proteasome system, a cellular protein degradation system that is dysfunctional in diseases including cancer and that can also be harnessed to degrade selected proteins with small-molecule compounds.