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Boehringer signs $815m cancer drug discovery alliance

Latest in series of major agreements for Forma Therapeutics

Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim has signed a four-year drug discovery deal with Forma Therapeutics of the US that could be worth up to $815m in upfront payments, R&D funding and milestones.

Forma has secured $65m in upfront payments and research funding under the deal, which focuses on identifying small-molecule drugs which interfere with protein-protein interactions relevant in the cancer field.

Multiple disease targets are covered by the agreement, including some which are novel and have been considered 'un-druggable' in the past, according to Forma's head of research Kenneth Blair.

In addition, another $750m is available if Forma can help Boehringer advance the programmes into pre-commercial stages of development.

The US firm was only formed in 2008 but has already signed a series of alliances with top-tier biopharma companies.

The deal with Boehringer follows a major agreement with Genentech last year in the area of cancer - financial terms of which have not been disclosed - while in 2010 Forma signed a drug discovery collaboration with Eisai which included a $20m upfront fee.

Another $50m has been provided since its start up from Lilly Ventures, Bio*One, Cubist Pharmaceuticals and Novartis Option Fund.

The company has adopted a strategy of partnering early-stage projects through the development stage only, and afterwards offering partners a chance to buy the projects outright with no royalty stream.

This approach provides a return for investors without forcing the company to tap into public markets or enter into acquisition negotiations, helping it maintain its independence and continue to invest in its drug discovery platforms.

"This creative deal provides Boehringer Ingelheim with access to our drug discovery capabilities in cancer but also offers Forma and our shareholders several opportunities to realise early return through assets developed under this collaboration," said Steven Tregay, the US company's chief executive.

6th January 2012

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