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April 18, 2017

Pfizer, HitGen Launch Drug Discovery Collaboration

  • Pfizer will bolster its drug discovery effort by partnering with HitGen to discover unique small-molecule leads by building and screening novel DNA-encoded libraries (DELs), through a collaboration announced today whose value was not disclosed.

    The multiyear research collaboration and licensing agreement will apply HitGen’s technology platform and research capabilities toward the design, synthesis, and screening of multiple proprietary DELs for Pfizer’s drug discovery efforts, the companies said.

    HitGen will screen its own DELs, consisting of more than 20 billion drug-like compounds, against a selected number of Pfizer’s therapeutic targets. The compounds are members of DELs synthesized from several hundred distinct chemical scaffolds, designed with tractable chemistry based on proven results for identifying drug leads against targets from both known and novel protein classes.

    Pfizer has agreed to fund the research at HitGen and will retain exclusive licenses to novel lead compounds from the HitGen DELs for further research and development.

    “We look forward to identifying new opportunities that will further expand our ability to identify new leads for multiple target families,” added Tony Wood, Ph.D., Pfizer svp and head of medicinal sciences. “The generation of proprietary DELs will leverage Pfizer’s parallel medicinal chemistry expertise and potentially accelerate the path of new medicines from idea to the clinic.”

    Headquartered in Chengdu, China, with laboratories in Houston, HitGen focuses on challenging targets, such as protein–protein interaction targets, which are difficult to screen through traditional screening techniques.

    “We will work closely with Pfizer scientists to build proprietary DELs to support the discovery of a generation of new medicines to address unmet medical needs,” HitGen Chairman and CEO Jin Li, Ph.D., said in a statement.

    The companies did not disclose the indications or disorders for which they will seek to find small-molecule leads. According to its website, HitGen is undertaking more than 20 new drug projects “focused on major diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular, inflammatory/respiratory, metabolic, and ophthalmic diseases.”

    “There are currently two projects in the preclinical candidate compounds stage, one in the lead compound optimization stage,” HitGen said

    HitGen added that Pfizer is among “multiple” pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as academic research institutes, with which it is collaborating to discover and develop new therapeutics.

    Last month, HitGen launched a drug R&D collaboration of undisclosed value with Merck & Co. to target multiple biological targets of interest to the company toward discovering new compounds. Merck will gain rights to the new compounds in return for undisclosed up-front and milestone payments, the companies said on March 22.

    Also last month, HitGen inked a license agreement of undisclosed value with Cancer Research UK and its Cancer Research Technology (CRT) commercial arm through which Cancer Research UK's Drug Discovery Unit will develop a novel class of drugs against lung cancer, based on compounds identified using HitGen's technology platform.  Work will be carried out by scientists at Cancer Research UK's Drug Discovery Unit at The University of Manchester.

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