MENLO PARK, CA – November 1, 2021 –Synthekine Inc., an engineered cytokine therapeutics company, today announced it has entered into a worldwide research collaboration and license agreement with Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. The collaboration will leverage Synthekine’s proprietary surrogate cytokine agonist platform to discover, develop, and commercialize novel cytokine therapeutics.
“At Synthekine, we are focused on advancing cytokine science through three protein engineering platforms to create optimized therapeutics in this important space. Our surrogate cytokine agonist platform produces a new class of cytokine therapeutics that are designed to deliver selective immunotherapies for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancer,” said Debanjan Ray, chief executive officer of Synthekine. “We are thrilled to announce our first collaboration using this platform with an unequivocal leader in the field.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Synthekine is responsible for initial research efforts in collaboration with Merck, and Merck will have exclusive rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize surrogate cytokine agonists for up to two cytokine targets. Initially, the collaboration will focus on a target that has the potential to treat autoimmune diseases. Merck will make an upfront payment and will make an additional one-time payment if it designates a second target. Synthekine will be eligible for up to $525 million in development, regulatory and commercialization milestones, as well as tiered royalties on net sales, for each target. Merck will provide research funding to Synthekine for programs under the collaboration.
“Emerging insights from immunology and oncology are providing new and different ways to think about treating diseases,” said Dr. Dean Y. Li, president, Merck Research Laboratories. “We look forward to collaborating with Synthekine to evaluate new approaches to harness the therapeutic potential of cytokines.”
Cytokines are small proteins that allow immune cells to communicate and are central to the body’s response to diseases and to the maintenance of immune homeostasis. Developing cytokines as therapeutics, however, is made challenging by the fact that cytokines are pleiotropic, meaning they can induce a range of responses across different cell types. Cytokine pleiotropy has historically led to the development of wild-type cytokines or mutein based therapies with narrow therapeutic windows, resulting in modest efficacy or dose limiting toxicities. Designed using a combinatorial engineering platform, Synthekine’s surrogate cytokine agonists dimerize or multimerize cytokine receptors in ways wild-type cytokines or mutein based approaches cannot, resulting in a wide range of selective and biased signaling possibilities.
Synthekine is harnessing the potential of cytokine therapeutics to develop selective immunotherapies designed to improve the treatment paradigm of cancer and inflammatory disease. Using insights on cytokine structure and function, the company engineers therapeutics designed to unlock the full efficacy potential of cytokines while avoiding their associated toxicities. Synthekine is applying principles of cytokine partial agonism and immunological specificity across multiple protein engineering platforms to create a broad and deep pipeline of product candidates. These novel immunotherapies include modified cytokines, cytokine-enhanced cell therapies and surrogate cytokine agonists. For more information, visit www.synthekine.com.