Astellas Pharma has signed a deal with Proteostasis Therapeutics to look at diseases caused by protein defects which could be worth in the region of $1.2 billion to the US firm.

The collaboration centres around developing therapeutics that modulate the unfolded protein response (UPR). Initially, Proteostasis is eligible for more than $400 million including an undisclosed upfront fee and equity investment to focus on one genetic disease, while similar terms have been agreed for a possible two other projects.

The Japanese drugmaker notes that selective modulation of the UPR pathway in non-clinical investigations has been shown to improve the stress response and restored function, suggesting that it can be beneficial as potential novel disease-modifying therapies for multiple conditions.

Meenu Chhabra, Proteostasis chief executive, said that “our novel approach to drug discovery, coupled with Astellas’ track record in drug development, will enable rapid discovery and development of therapies for important unmet medical needs”. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm has retained certain co-promotion rights.

K-ras deal

Meantime, Astellas has also signed a three-year collaboration with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to develop small molecule inhibitors of oncogene K-Ras for the treatment of cancer, including lung cancer.

Astellas says that K-Ras is the most commonly mutated oncogene in human cancers, with about 30% of all cancers harbouring activating ras mutations. Diseases with a high prevalence of K-Ras mutations, such as lung and pancreatic cancer, are difficult to treat “and clinical outcomes are poor even with aggressive medical interventions”.

The firm added that “despite more than 20 years of research by industry and academia, K-Ras has proven highly difficult to target and no effective therapy currently exists”.