Servier has linked up with fellow French firm Hybrigenics to discover first-in-class drugs for a variety of diseases, notably cancer.

The companies have signed a licence and research collaboration agreement in the field of deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) to be applied to oncology, neurology, psychiatry, rheumatology, ophthalmology, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Hybrigenics will identify and validate new targets among DUBs and screen potential therapeutic agents able to modulate four undisclosed targets.

Servier will provide the compounds to be screened, develop them and hopefully commercialise the approved drugs. The three-year pact will also see Hybrigenics work on the discovery of companion diagnostics.

Cashwise, Hybrigenics will receive an upfront fee and research funding totalling four million euros. It is also eligible to get payments amounting to 9.5 million euros for each target successfully leading to registration, plus royalties on sales of diagnostic kits.

Bernard Marchand, head of research at Servier, said the inhibition of DUBs "is a very innovative approach to stimulate the degradation of specific intra-cellular proteins, with a clear potential impact in treating cancer and possibly many other diseases".

Alzheimer's deal with Cortex

Meantime, Servier has decided to exercise the option under a deal with the USA's Cortex Pharmaceuticals for an Alzheimer drug candidate, resulting in a $2 million payment.

In June this year, Servier paid Cortex a non-refundable fee of $1 million for the option to CX1632, an ampakine compound which acts to increase the strength of signals at connections between brain cells. Since then, Servier has completed a Phase I study with the drug.