Medical and beauty care company Pierre Fabre Laboratories has partnered with HitGen’s UK subsidiary Vernalis to identify and develop multiple oncology drugs, in line with its shift towards cancer drug discovery.

Vernalis plans to utilise fragment and structure-based methods to identify small molecules that target a number of cancer indications. As part of the agreement, it will receive milestone-based payments and a percentage of royalties from Pierre Fabre. The exact financials of the deal have not been disclosed.

Pierre Fabre will be responsible for funding the drug discovery and development. Last year, the company announced the investment of 80% of its R&D budget in oncology, making it a top research priority. Since then, the French company has been looking to expand its precision oncology portfolio. Earlier this month, it acquired Vertical Bio and added a monoclonal antibody candidate, VERT-002.

The clinical trials for VERT-002 in patients with non-small cell lung cancer are planned for initiation next tear.

In April, Pierre Fabre partnered with Scorpion Therapeutics to co-develop two epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors that target EGFR mutations in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

GlobalData forecasts that the market for precision and personalised medicines is growing steadily and is expected to be worth $106bn in 2029. AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso (osimertinib mesylate), a small molecule approved for treating NSCLC with specific EGFR mutations generated $2.9bn in H1 2023, as per AstraZeneca’s Q2 2023 financials.

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By GlobalData

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.

Last month, Merck (MSD) and Astex Pharmaceuticals partnered to develop small molecule candidates to target the p53 tumour suppressor protein for cancer treatment, using the latter’s fragment-based drug discovery platform.

HitGen had previously partnered with Pfizer to build and screen novel DNA-encoded libraries (DELs) to aid in the discovery of small-molecule drug candidates.