Gilead has signed a global collaboration with Nurix to discover, develop and commercialise a pipeline of protein degradation drugs for cancers and other challenging diseases.

The partnership is based on leveraging Nurix’s drug discovery platform to use ubiquitin and its component E3 ligases, which are the enzymes responsible for controlling protein levels in human cells, to induce degradation of certain drug targets.

The platform makes use of DNA-encoded libraries and genetic screening and centres around the role of dysregulated and mutated proteins in a range of diseases.

Gilead will have the option to license drug candidates linked with a maximum of five targets and Nurix can choose to co-develop up to two programmes in the US. All development costs will split evenly between the two companies.

Per the terms of the agreement, Nurix will receive an upfront payment of $45m, and will be eligible for approximately $2.3bn in additional payments related to the completion of certain development and commercial milestones.

The drug discovery company is also expected to receive up to low double-digit tired royalties on net sales.

Gilead chief scientific officer and head of research and development John McHutchison

“There are many molecular targets involved in disease pathways that have traditionally been challenging to manipulate using conventional approaches.

“Nurix’s innovative protein degradation discovery technology provides Gilead with a new strategy to interrogate these drug targets, as we continue to build a pipeline of small molecule therapeutics for patients with cancers and other diseases.”

Nurix CEO Arthur T. Sands added: “Gilead is an ideal partner to help us bring potentially transformative treatments to patients.

“This partnership expands our ability to build our pipeline of novel targeted protein degradation drugs based on our established expertise in the field of protein homeostasis, while we continue to independently advance our lead programs into the clinic.”

Nurix has two programmes currently in its own pipeline, as well as two in immuno-oncology being developed alongside Celgene, based upon a 2015 partnership agreement.