RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Durham-based biotechnology startup Tavros Therapeutics has announced its second collaboration in six months to find new targets and therapies for cancer.
The emerging biotech uses a high-throughput functional genomics discovery platform to identify unique weaknesses in cancer cells. By uncovering these genetic vulnerabilities within tumors, Tavros can then target the right drug combination to the right patients to manage cancer more effectively.
The company said it will expand its initial partnership with San Francisco-headquartered OpenBench with the goal of discovering small molecule modulators of up to five oncology targets over the next 18 months. Modulators can stimulate or suppress the immune system and may help the body fight cancer. OpenBench uses its machine learning platform to screen billions of molecules to identify hits in early discovery.
Under the agreement, OpenBench will receive an upfront payment for its services and additional remuneration when novel small molecule chemotypes that meet Tavros’s requirements for development are confirmed. Tavros will gain exclusive access to OpenBench’s proprietary cancer screening technology. The two companies did not disclose financial terms.
“This deepening partnership with OpenBench underscores the strength of our discovery platform and is a key step toward building our internal pipeline of targeted cancer therapies,” said Tavros CEO and co-founder Eoin McDonnell, Ph.D.
OpenBench CEO and co-founder Jim Thompson added that “combining our proprietary AI (artificial intelligence)-enabled screening platform with Tavros’ innovation in identifying synthetic vulnerabilities represents a real opportunity to accelerate discovery of promising cancer targets for areas of high unmet need.”
Tavros inked a separate five-year agreement with Bayer AG subsidiary Vividion Therapeutics in November 2022 to find new targets and treatments for cancer. Under the terms of that collaboration, Tavros got $17.5 million in cash up front and is eligible for up to $403.5 million in potential future payments if certain preclinical, clinical development and commercial milestones are met. Tavros also may receive low-single-digit royalties on sales of certain potential programs.
The company was launched in 2020 by McDonnell, a Duke University molecular cancer biology graduate, and Kris Wood, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke. It focuses on areas of high unmet clinical need with the goal of improving patient outcomes, while lessening the toxicity of treatments and increasing the speed of development.
(C) N.C. Biotech Center