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Pieris in $1.4bn deal with Roche

German-US Anticalin specialist Pieris Pharmaceuticals has bagged $20m upfront for a strategic R&D and license agreement with Genentech, the US branch of Swiss Roche AG.

Under the terms of the agreement that forsees additional $1.4bn in milestones and tiered royalties across multiple programmes, the partners will use Pieris’ synthetic lipocalin (Anticalin®) platform to validate targets contributed by Genentech, and develop and commercialize locally delivered respiratory and ophthalmology therapies.

While Pieris will be responsible for discovery research and early preclinical development of the programmes, Genentech will be responsible for IND-enabling activities, clinical development, and commercialisation of those programs. Genentech will also have the option to select additional targets in return for an option exercise fee. The collaboration does not include any of Pieris’ internal programs.

The Anticalin platform has been developed by Arne Skerra, a serial entrepreneur, at Techncal University Munich. Skerra’s group discovered that the barrel-like molecular architecture of lipocalins is structurally highly conserved, but their binding site shows high variability and recognises different ligands. Pieris AG, which was spun-off in 2001, further developed this principle to produce artificial lipocalins with customised recognition properties. To do this, Pieris subjects the four peptide loops at the entrance to the binding pocket to local random mutagenesis, thus producing protein libraries with great combinatorial complexity (> 1,000,000,000) and isolating variants from them by phage display and colony screening that recognise given ligands specifically and with high affinity.