Bayer’s Vividion unit forges $930m cancer alliance with Tavros

by Stephen Riddle

Bayer’s quest to revamp its drug discovery engine continues apace, with the company’s recently-acquired Vividion subsidiary forging a alliance with Tavros Therapeutics aimed at finding new drug targets and biomarker in oncology.

Bayer bought Vividion for $1.5 billion upfront last year, saying that the company would boost its ability to develop medicines against targets once considered “undruggable.”

The latest deal extends that effort, with Tavros tasked with using its functional and computational genomics expertise to find targets for tumour therapies that can be hit by either new or repurposed drugs.

Vividion is making an upfront payment of $17.5 million to get the collaboration underway, with the objective of finding four targets that could generate another $430.5 million in future payments tied to preclinical, clinical development, and commercial achievements.

Bayer’s subsidiary also gets options on five more targets, which if exercised could add another $482 million in milestone payments to the pot.

In a statement, Vividion’s chief executive Jeffrey Hatfield said the collaboration draws on both companies’ strengths. Vividion will contribute its ability to find previously unknown functional binding pockets on molecules like proteins or transcription factors that can be targeted with drug compounds.

Tavros meanwhile will bring has a platform that can tease out previously unknown synthetic vulnerabilities or dependencies in tumour cells that make the vulnerable to drug treatment.

“We believe this powerful combination of leading-edge technologies has the potential to deliver multiple breakthrough discoveries for cancer patients in need,” said Hatfield.

The new alliance comes just over a year after Vividion became part of Bayer, extending a run of acquisitions and partnerships by the German group as it tries to bulk up its R&D capabilities and pipeline, as it starts to prepare for the loss of patent protection to big-selling drugs like ophthalmology drug Eylea (aflibercept) and clot-buster Xarelto (rivaroxaban) in the next few years.

Earlier this year, Bayer reached a deal to acquire Noria Therapeutics and its subsidiary PSMA Therapeutics, adding to its pipeline of radionuclide drugs for cancer, and at the end of last year partnered with Atara on mesothelin-targeted CAR-T cell therapies for solid tumours.

In 2021, it also closed a $4 billion takeover of UK-based Asklepios BioPharmaceutical, which became the foundation of a specialist cell and gene therapy unit at the German group, and bought women’s health specialist KaNDy Therapeutics for up to $875 million.

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