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Protein Chemistry Biotech Acquired in $2B Deal

DNA analysis graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

5 Aug. 2021. Drug maker Bayer is acquiring a company discovering new therapies with a technology that reveals complex protein targets considered difficult to address. The deal with Berlin-based Bayer is expected to bring Vividion Therapeutics Inc. shareholders as much as $2 billion if all terms of the agreement are met.

Vividion Therapeutics in San Diego is a four year-old spin-off company from the Scripps Research Institute lab of scientific co-founder biochemist Benjamin Cravatt. The lab studies the chemistry of human proteins, including interactions between enzymes and other proteins with human cells. Vividion’s technology applies research by Cravatt and others to profile activities of proteins interacting with cells and tissue that reveal different ways of regulating metabolic and signaling networks in the body. Science & Enterprise reported on Vividion’s formation and first venture funding round in February 2017.

The company says its analytic technology can identify previously unknown or mysterious pockets on protein surfaces missed by conventional techniques, making these pockets better targets for new small-molecule or low molecular weight drugs. Vividion says it amassed a library of small-molecule compounds designed to bind with shallow or complex protein pockets. In addition, the company says it has a screening process that detects small-molecule interactions with proteins in their natural cellular state, and a data portal that accesses public databases to offer new insights into protein structures and targets.

Will continue to operate independently

Vividion says its technology so far assessed more than 12,500 proteins, returning some 250 targets of interest, with 80 of those targets considered high priority. The company is advancing four of those protein targets into preclinical drug-development stages as precision treatments for cancer and inflammatory disorders, such as irritable bowel disease. Drug makers Roche and Bristol Myers Squibb are collaborating with Vividion on developing some of these therapies.

“Despite advances in genomics, structural biology, and high-throughput screening, about 90 percent of disease-causing proteins cannot be targeted by current therapies due to the lack of a known addressable binding site,” says Vividion CEO Jeff Hatfield in a Bayer statement. “Our proprietary chemoproteomic platform technology addresses the key limitations of conventional screening techniques and allows us to discover previously unknown, or cryptic, functional pockets on the surface of proteins and identify small molecules that selectively bind to those targets.”

Bayer says it plans to keep Vividion Therapeutics operating independently to maintain its entrepreneurial culture, but benefit from its discoveries as a source for new treatments. “This acquisition is a cornerstone of our strategy to fuel our pipeline with breakthrough innovation,” notes Stefan Oelrich, president of Bayer’s pharmaceuticals division. “Vividion’s technology is the most advanced in the industry, and it has demonstrated its ability to identify drug candidates that can target challenging proteins.”

Bayer is paying $1.5 billion for Vividion’s shares, with the company eligible for another $500 million in unspecified milestone payments. According to Crunchbase, Vividion raised $371.5 million in three venture funding rounds, gaining $135 million in its latest round in February.

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