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Degron Partners with Takeda, Lands $1.2B Milestone Deal

BIOTECH: Co. Brings Innovation Into Molecular Glue Space

SAN DIEGO – Degron Therapeutics, a Shanghai-based biotech which has roots in San Diego, has inked a licensing deal with Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

The privately held biotech firm has a chance to earn an additional $1.2 billion if certain milestones are met, according to the two companies.

The collaboration provides Takeda with access to Degron’s drug delivery platform called GlueXplorer, which will be used to create new “molecular glue degraders,” in therapeutic areas including oncology, neuroscience and inflammation.

Christopher Arendt
Chief Scientific Officer
Head of Research
Takeda Pharmaceuticals

“This is Takeda’s first collaboration in molecular glue; however, other companies are also exploring this area of science,” Chris Arendt, Chief Scientific Officer, Head of Research at Takeda told the San Diego Business Journal. “Rather than waiting for others to solve this problem, our collaboration with Degron enables Takeda to be at the forefront of molecular glue drug discovery.”

Takeda will also make an equity investment in Degron, which retains full ownership of its pipeline programs. The agreement includes options to expand the collaboration to more targets.

Innovative Technology

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Founded in 2021, Degron uses its proprietary GlueXplorer platform to develop molecular glue degraders for previously undruggable disease targets.

The platform includes a diverse compound library, screening approaches, and extensive validation assays, supported by an AI algorithm to predict novel targets and accelerate discovery.

It has already developed an in-house pipeline of molecular glue drugs, including five in oncology, according to the three-year-old company, and is approaching the clinic with its lead internal program for undisclosed cancers.

“Takeda was interested in adding this technology to their drug discovery toolbox,” said Lily Zou, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, at Degron Therapeutics.

Lily Zou
Co-Founder and CEO
Degron Therapeutics

“We had been meeting with major pharmaceutical companies to discuss our technology,” she said. “Takeda expressed interest in molecular glue degrader technology. Our GlueXplorer platform enables us to discover molecular glue degraders for new disease targets that have not been adequately addressed in the past.”

Takeda’s History in San Diego

Over the last decade, Takeda has had 24 collaborations with San Diego area biotech companies and academic institutions.

The pharma giant has tapped into this push for innovative medicines in China by successfully launching 14 of our medicines in recent years—the most of any multinational pharma company operating in the country, according to the firm.

“China continues to play a critical role in Takeda’s R&D strategy, as we aim for simultaneous clinical development and regulatory filings with the U.S.A., Japan and Europe,” said Arendt. “The number of new launches, combined with rapid patient access through national reimbursement drug listing, supports our aspiration to give Chinese patients access to our most innovative medicines as quickly as possible.”

Rising Interest

Takeda is the latest pharma giant to enter the molecular glue space, following the pharma industry at large, which has shown a rising interest in molecular glues.

For example, the molecular glue field has caught the attention of other drugmakers, such as AbbVie, Amgen, Bristol Myers Squibb, Roche and Novo Nordisk.

In February, Novo Nordisk signed a deal with Neomorph worth a potential $1.46 billion to develop molecular glue degraders.

Last September, Genentech paid $47 million upfront plus $2 billion in milestones for Orionis Biosciences to use its Allo-Glue platform to discover and optimize molecular glues for targets.

“This is Takeda’s first collaboration in molecular glue; however, other companies are also exploring this area of science. We are still in the infancy of this field and the industry is still in the process of figuring out how to capitalize on this opportunity most effectively,” said Arendt.

However, Takeda is confident that Degron is the right partner for them in this pursuit.

Looking Ahead

Zou, who co-founded the company alongside Yong Cang its chief science office, credited San Diego’s startup ecosystem, including the Johnson and Johnson’s JLABS program, with helping the company get off the ground.

“We have been a part of the San Diego ecosystem since our founding and it is very important for Degron,” said Zou. “We became a member of JLABS in both Shanghai and San Diego to leverage the infrastructure and network provided by JLABS to startup companies. The move-in ready shared facility allowed us to get a quick start, and the network is also helpful for our growth.”

Degron employs roughly 35 staffers. It has raised $34.5 million to date, including a $22 million Series A disclosed in June 2022.The biotech startup plan to expand its research and development (R&D) team in both United States and China.

“The future of molecular glue degraders is very bright, and we are happy to be leading the way,” said Zou. “The partnership is a recognition and endorsement of our technology platform. It also helps us to expand into additional therapeutic areas we’re not currently in, such as neuroscience and inflammation. We’re excited to work closely with Takeda colleagues to develop new treatments for patients.”

Degron Therapeutics
FOUNDED: 2021
CEO: Lily Zou
HEADQUARTERS: Shanghai and San Diego
BUSINESS: Develops novel molecular glue degraders for various oncology, neuroscience and inflammatory disease targets.
EMPLOYEES: 35
WEBSITE: www.degrontx.com
NOTABLE: Co. participated in Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS program.

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