In April 2020, Almac Discovery announced a research collaboration with MSD (tradename of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA) focusing on the generation of novel small molecule inhibitors against specified Deubiquitinase (DUB) targets for the treatment of a range of neurodegenerative and other diseases. The parties will initially collaborate in a two-year joint research programme to identify and progress novel, potent and selective small molecule inhibitors. MSD will then be responsible for conducting further lead optimisation, preclinical and clinical development and commercialisation. Under the terms of the agreement, Almac Discovery receives an undisclosed upfront licence fee and also research funding from MSD. The company is also eligible for payments based on the achievement of predetermined research, development and commercial milestones, as well as tiered royalties on potential commercial sales of products resulting from the collaboration.
In July 2018, Almac Discovery and Elasmogen were awarded a grant from Innovate UK through its Innovation in Health and Life Sciences funding programme. The £2M peer reviewed collaborative project entitled ‘A Technology Platform for Next Generation VNAR based Oncology Medicines’, plans to utilise the highly selective, high affinity and yet low molecular weight non-antibody VNAR protein scaffold and build a versatile platform to facilitate the discovery and development of targeted oncology therapeutics. Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency working with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.
In June 2017, Almac Discovery entered a Licensing and R&D collaboration with Debiopharm International SA., a Switzerland based specialty pharmaceutical company, to pursue the development of Almac Discovery’s Wee-1 kinase inhibitor programme. Wee-1 is a key regulator of the cell cycle and inhibition of Wee-1 kinase has been shown to force arrested cells through the cell cycle leading to cell death. Almac Discovery has granted exclusive global rights to its Wee-1 kinase inhibitor patent families and related subject matter expertise to Debiopharm and are eligible to receive, in addition to the upfront payment, further development and commercial milestone payments plus royalties.
In June 2015 the Almac Discovery team entered an R&D collaboration with Elasmogen, an Aberdeen University-based biologics drug discovery company. The aim of the collaboration is to harness the combined expertise of Almac Discovery and Elasmogen to develop a technology platform for the generation and optimisation of next generation medicines based on Elasmogen’s Variable New Antigen Receptor (VNAR) proteins. Shark VNAR domains are the smallest naturally occurring antigen binding domain (~11 kDa) with a binding mechanism distinct from traditional antibodies. These properties are potentially advantageous for cancer therapy, where they are yet to be exploited.
In June 2015 Almac Discovery, entered into a Research and Licensing agreement with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group to discover and develop small molecule inhibitors of a ubiquitin specific protease (USP) target. Under the terms of the agreement, Almac Discovery received an upfront payment of $14.5 million and were eligible to receive up to $349 million in payments based on achievement of certain predetermined milestones as well as escalating tiered royalties on potential commercial sales of multiple products to the target by Genentech. Almac Discovery’s novel, potent and selective small molecule inhibitors were the starting point for a two-year joint research programme funded by Genentech.