The technology creates links, or “staples,” between specific amino acids in a protein, locking it into its biologically-active structure and preventing its degradation by cellular proteases.
Massachusetts, US-headquartered Aileron says that the ability to combine the deliverability and cell penetration characteristics of small molecules drugs with the specificity and high-affinity binding of a protein therapeutic.
The firm also claims the approach expands the number of potentially “druggable” targets to include those reliant on protein-protein interactions that are impossible to achieve using conventional drugs.
This potential clearly piqued Roche’s interest, with the Swiss major paying $25m upfront to access the technology for the development of therapeutic peptides to targets in oncology, virology, inflammation, CNS and metabolic disorder programmes.
And, while specific details of the projects or the deal were not provided, Aileron said it may to receive up to $1.1bn in discovery, development and commercialisation milestones, as well as royalties on future sales.
In a press statement, Jean-Jacques Garaud, Global Head of Roche Pharma Research and Early Development said: "This collaboration with Aileron is a strategically important endeavour for advancing a novel approach to developing new medicines.”
The agreement is the second Roche has entered into with Aileron in the last 18 months, following its participation in a series D financing round the US firm undertook in June last year.
That financing also attracted investment from the “Venture” divisions of Novartis and Eli Lilly, as well as from UK-based drug major GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
However, while Roche’s renewed interest in the technology suggests Aileron has made some progress, some observers, including Bank Vontobel analyst Andrew Weiss, see the latest deal as a longer term move.
Weiss told the Wall Street Journal that: “Aileron's research is at a very early phase and it could take more than a decade before the company can hope to launch a drug on the market.”