Absci and EQRx in tie-up to accelerate production of cheaper, protein based therapeutics

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/metamorworks
© GettyImages/metamorworks

Related tags Cancer inflammatory diseases Biologics Drug discovery

Absci Corp, a synthetic biology firm, is partnering with pharma company, EQRx, to jointly engineer and develop several clinical candidates across multiple therapeutic areas, including oncology and immunology.

The partners are aiming to drive efficiencies and accelerate timelines to produce next-generation, protein-based therapeutics at more affordable costs for patients.

The alliance will capitalize on Absci’s drug creation technology for discovery and development activities and EQRx’s clinical development expertise and commercial capabilities.

Sean McClain, founder and CEO of Absci, told BioPharma-Reporter: "EQRx came to us specifically to take advantage of our ability to rapidly discover new protein-based drugs of any modality - think new formats like T-cell engagers, bispecifics, VHHs - using our AI models and proprietary assays to design and optimize candidates in the full length format and in the scalable production cell line. Working with EQRx, we look forward to expanding their portfolio to include new drugs in these next-generation formats toward priority targets and indications​." 

Detailed terms of the partnership are not being disclosed at this time, said a spokesperson, but the firms did report that Absci has an option to make additional investments at progressive stages of development in exchange for an increased share of product sales.

Upending the system 

EQRx was launched in January 2020; it is building a pipeline of new drug candidates to address diseases like cancer and inflammatory conditions. It is trying to upend the system: By leveraging proven druggable targets and a focus on efficiency, and through building partnerships with health systems and payers, it anticipates a higher probability of regulatory success, a lower risk-adjusted cost of drug development and a more streamlined access model.

In August this year, to accelerate its growth, it announced a proposed merger with CM Life Sciences III, a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, which would allow the startup to go public on the Nasdaq and raise up to $1.8bn in cash, according to the two parties. 

Data will drive accelerated drug production 

Absci’s platform is built to design and generate protein-based drug candidates and help screen them for optimal functioning. We spoke to McClain in July, following the Vancouver, Washington based company’s successful IPO.

“One of the exciting aspects of our technology is that we can screen billions of different drug candidates in a single experiment looking at protein functionality and manufacturing ability. We are feeding this data into our deep learning models and what this allows us to do is ultimately go fully in silico where we can predict the best drug candidate towards a specific target and the associated manufacturing cell line. In the future, data is going to be what drives our business and, ultimately, allow us to get the best drugs to patients at truly unprecedented speed," ​he commented then.

The company says protein-based drugs, or biologics, have already transformed vaccine development, oncology therapies, and treatments for chronic diseases like diabetes but these breakthroughs only scratch the surface of what’s possible. “The next generation of biologics will be able to treat the most complex diseases, like neurologic and autoimmune disorders, in highly targeted, and even personalized ways. Proteins have limitless potential and can be designed to be exquisitely specific.”

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