Drug and target discovery company Absci has signed a research collaboration with Merck to produce new enzymes.
As part of the collaboration, the company will use its Deep Learning-Enabled Drug Creation and Bionic Protein non-standard amino acid technologies to create enzymes to meet Merck’s biomanufacturing applications.
The Integrated Drug Creation platform is designed to find new drug targets, discover optimal biotherapeutic candidates, and create the cell lines to produce them in a single process.
Merck Research Laboratories discovery, preclinical and translation medicine head and senior vice-president Dr Fiona Marshall said: “At Merck we are continually evaluating new ways to build, expand and refine our biologics capabilities.
“Absci’s platform offers a compelling opportunity to design new biologic candidates and explore the expression of complex proteins.”
Under the terms of the deal, Merck has the option to pick up to three targets and move into a drug discovery collaboration agreement.
Absci will then be eligible for up to $610m in upfront fees, milestone payments for the three targets, in addition to research funding and tiered royalties on the sales of the products.
Absci founder and CEO Sean McClain said: “We are very pleased to establish this collaboration with Merck and to be working with its world class research organisation to generate novel enzymes.
“We look forward to applying our AI-driven platform to create new biologic candidates with the potential to meaningfully improve the lives of patients.”
Last month, Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics received an order from the UK Government to supply investigational Covid-19 oral antiviral drug molnupiravir (MK-4482) courses.