On December 7th, Roivant biosciences unveiled its novel protein degradation platform, powered by VantAI and supported by SK Holdings, a South Korean Investment group. VantAI is a drug discovery platform with proprietary technologies to address the modality-specific challenges of designing and optimizing novel degrader candidates.
“We see targeted protein degradation as one of the most promising areas for novel drug discovery, and we intend to build a leadership position in this field,” said Vivek Ramaswamy, Founder and CEO of Roivant Sciences.
Targeted protein degradation is an approach that offers the potential for improved potency and selectivity relative to conventional small-molecule inhibition by harnessing the body’s natural protein disposal system. This system was discovered in 2001 at Yale University, and consists of a small molecule called a degrader, a protein called ubiquitin, and a protein complex called a proteasome. The degrader will effectively act as a tool to “high-light” a protein for binding with ubiquitin and the resultant destruction of the protein. This process is called ubiquitination and is a widely conserved means of recycling cellular proteins.
This therapy allows medical professionals to address disease by controlling the amount of a harmful protein rather than trying to stop that protein from being produced or creating another molecule to impair its function.
This therapeutic method provides increased potency and selectivity to enable lower dosing and lower target occupancy while maintaining efficacy. Not just this, but the ability to lower the target protein concentration can help avoid dose-limiting toxicities. Besides, degraders could be used to target proteins that are otherwise difficult to drug.
VantAI began developing novel technologies for in silico drug design, target prediction, interactome mapping, and ADMET optimization in early 2019 and has designed degraders for six unique targets to date.
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Roivant is receiving $200 million from SK holdings to advance the platform. This equity investment is contingent on the customary closing conditions. The firm has been making investments in various biotechnology companies over the past 2 years to the tune of $231 million, but Roivant is by far their biggest investment.
SK holdings have invested in the US-based GenEdit and LVIS in 2018 as well as China’s Harbour BioMed, Korea’s Standigm and France’s Visible Patient in 2019, and systems biology antibody researcher Hummingbird Bioscience in Singapore earlier this year.
Roivant recently completed the acquisition of Oncopia Therapeutics, a leading company focused on developing targeted protein degraders. The acquisition is likely a strategy to deal with the heavy competition in the field. Arvinas, C4, Kymera, and Nurix are all competitors in the space valued at over $5 billion in total. Arvinas, in particular, launched by the discoverer of protein degrades, has the edge over other firms with its five therapeutic pipelines.
Roivant will likely try to take advantage of Oncopia’s BET and MDM2 degrader technologies to develop prostate cancer treatment. It has also expanded a research partnership with the University of Michigan, where Oncopia started, to support research in the laboratory of Dr. Shaomeng Wang, Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis. Dr. Wang is Director of the Michigan Center for Therapeutic Innovation, a co-founder of Oncopia Therapeutics, and a world-renowned scientist focused on discovering protein degraders.
Roivant’s new platform, while not an entirely new technology, will offer great options for the company to produce more specialized medications and offer their customers a more customized experience. The use of VantAI in this application shows great promise for developing new pipelines for Roivant’s treatments.
By Eduardo Longoria
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