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Partnership Seeks Lower-Cost Protein Drugs

Chemical atom model

(Fernando Zhiminaicela, Pixabay.

6 Oct. 2021. A biotechnology enterprise and company aiming to make drugs at lower prices are collaborating on new lower-cost synthetic protein drugs. The partnership brings together synthetic protein developer Absci Corp. in Vancouver, Washington with pharmaceutical company EQRx Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but financial and intellectual property terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Absci Corp. designs synthetic antibody proteins from genetically engineered cells using artificial intelligence algorithms, trained by large datasets generated through its own development process. With diseased tissue or ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequences as a starting point, Absci says it reconstructs human antibody proteins from the tissue, then identifies corresponding antigen proteins as antibody targets. The company designs and constructs these new proteins with specialized folding and expression properties with the engineered cells. Screening and selection processes, says Absci, refine the protein design and allow for production of small quantities for further optimizing and scaling up as therapy candidates.

Absci works mainly through partnerships, and the collaboration with EQRx aims to produce synthetic proteins as therapies at lower costs to health care providers and patients. EQRx aims to re-engineer the processes of bringing drugs to market, as well as getting treatments to patients, which reduces the time needed to produce drugs, but also their prices. The company uses a fast-follow model, where their product candidates work similarly to existing drugs, but with sufficiently different chemistries to allow for their own intellectual property.

Cancer and immune-related disorders

Plus, the company aims to shorten the supply chain, selling their drugs directly to larger health care providers. Using this model, EQRx acquires current late-stage drug candidates for further development and commercialization, and now has four cancer therapies in late-stage clinical trials or awaiting regulatory review. Science & Enterprise reported on EGRx’s formation in January 2020, $500 million funding round a year later, and partnership with Exscientia, a company in the U.K. designing new drugs with artificial intelligence, in June 2021.

The new collaboration calls for the companies to jointly develop new types of protein-based therapies addressing cancer and immune-related disorders as well as other unnamed targets, but at more affordable prices to patients. Absci is providing its protein design and discovery expertise, while EQRx offers its clinical development and commercialization capabilities. While financial details are not provided, Absci has an option to make additional investments in the collaboration, in exchange for a larger percentage of product sales.

Carlos Garcia-Echeverria, who heads drug creation at EQRx notes in a statement, “Absci’s technology platform enables rapid discovery and production of well-differentiated protein-based drugs that are elusive to other discovery approaches.” Absci founder and CEO Sean McClain adds, “This collaboration with EQRx expands the reach of our AI-powered target discovery, drug design, and development technology.”

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