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Ensemble Therapeutics, Genentech Partner on Drug Discovery

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Ensemble Therapeutics, a biotechnology company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Genentech, a subsidiary of the global pharmaceutical company Roche in South San Francisco, California have agreed to collaborate on the development of new drug candidates based on Ensemble’s technology. The financial value of the deal was not disclosed.

Ensemble says it has developed a drug discovery platform that produces a new type of compound it calls ensemblins that fall between small-molecule drugs and biologics. Ensemblins are synthetic compounds that have a macrocyclic ring structure, 14 to 30 atoms in size and can occur naturally with properties that make them useful as drug targets.

Those properties, says the company, give ensemblins high levels of affinity and specificity that stretch the limits of small molecule drugs, but with the potential to bind to targets normally addressable with biologics. Those target include protein-protein interactions, complex biological functions involved with cell signaling.

Under the agreement, Ensemble will make its drug discovery platform and collection of ensemblins representing some five million macrocycles to discover new drug candidates against Genentech’s drug targets. Genentech will have the right to develop and commercialize lead molecules derived from the collaboration.

In return, Ensemble will receive an upfront payment, as well as subsequent payments determined by achievement of specified milestones.  Ensemble is also expected to receive royalties on sales of products that result from the collaboration.

The Genentech partnership is Ensemble’s latest deal with major drug manufacturers. The company’s earlier collaborations include Pfizer in 2010, Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2009, and Roche — Genentech’s parent company — in 2008.

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