Cancer Research Technology (CRT), the commercialisation and development arm of Cancer Research UK, has formed an alliance with FormaTherapeutics, a US-based company focused on developing transformative small-molecule cancer therapies, to explore the biological implications and applications of deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs).

The initiative aims to discover innovative tools, technologies and therapeutic drug candidates against a variety of DUBs, which are involved in regulating protein ubiquitination. Ubiquitin ‘tags’ proteins for degradation and DUBs remove this tag, providing a tool for manipulating protein levels (protein homeostasis) in a cell, the partners explained.

Forma’s drug discovery capabilities will be complemented by CRT’s expertise in translating academic discoveries into viable therapies through its Discovery Laboratories (CRT-DL) and its academic network of Cancer Research UK principal investigators.

CRT-DL and Forma will leverage their combined strengths to explore the protease enzymes that regulate ubiquitin-dependent pathways implicated in cancer.

Collaborative consortium

As part of the agreement, a collaborative consortium will be set up consisting of Forma Therapeutics and up to 10 Forma ADDCos (Asset Discovery and Development Company) subsidiaries, as well as CRT-DL and (initially) five principal investigators from the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford in the UK; the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK; and the Chemical Biology Laboratory, Netherlands Cancer Institute.

These investigators will focus on furthering the consortium’s understanding of biological and structural insights into DUBs, while helping to ensure the most relevant screening technologies and secondary characterisation assays are deployed for lead-candidate selection.

Forma will provide research funding support and defined compensation payments for DUB-specific ADDCo programmes that achieve specified milestones. Detailed financial arrangements were not disclosed.

Cornerstone partner

“We are pleased to have CRT participate as a cornerstone partner in Forma's launch of the ADDCo framework,” commented Rob Sarisky, chief business officer at FormaTherapeutics.

“This vehicle allows our not-for-profit collaborators to access a capital-efficient engine operating at scale, attain financial returns mirroring their contributions and collectively advance medical science within the framework of a unified team.”