SK Group makes $200 mln investment in Roivant's protein degradation platform

By Lim Chang-won Posted : December 7, 2020, 12:23 Updated : December 7, 2020, 12:23

[Courtesy of SK Group]

SEOUL -- Roivant Sciences, a U.S. healthcare company, has selected the holding company of South Korea's third-largest conglomerate SK Group as a strategic partner to develop novel drugs through a $200 million equity investment in a targeted protein degradation platform which includes novel degraders for multiple diseases across oncology, immunology, and neurology.

Targeted protein degradation offers the potential for improved potency and selectivity relative to conventional small-molecule inhibition by harnessing the body’s natural protein disposal system. Improved potency and selectivity can enable lower dosing and lower target occupancy to achieve efficacy and to avoid dose-limiting toxicities. Degraders may be used to target proteins which are otherwise difficult to drug.

A strategic partnership was signed through an online conference by SK Holdings CEO Jang dong-hyun and Roivant founder Vivek Ramaswamy. SK Holdings aims to establish a global leading position in the new drug market using targeted protein degradation and increase market competitiveness through SK Pharmteco, a consolidated global pharmaceuticals manufacturing chain.

"We believe that AI-powered targeted protein degradation will not only improve inefficiencies in the pharmaceutical industry, but also generate significant social impact by tackling unmet medical needs," Jang said in a joint statement. "In addition to this partnership, we look forward to working together to innovate on other aspects of healthcare with a long-term vision."

Target selection and molecule design for Roivant’s protein degrader pipeline are currently powered by VantAI, a computational drug discovery platform with proprietary technologies to address the modality-specific challenges of designing and optimizing novel degrader candidates. "We see targeted protein degradation as one of the most promising areas for novel drug discovery and we intend to build a leadership position in this field," said Ramaswamy.

"Degraders provide a unique opportunity to unlock difficult drug targets and tackle serious diseases," said Roivant's R&D head Roger Sidhu. "By combining our unique computational chemistry platform with validated degrader discovery approaches and by making additional investments in new capabilities, we plan to build an engine that will consistently deliver first-in-class and best-in-class degraders in multiple therapeutic areas."

As part of a strategy to enhance the competitive power of its biotech and pharmaceutical business, SK Group has integrated medical production affiliates into SK Pharmteco, based in Sacramento, California, that will serve as an integrated contract manufacturing organization (CMO), which serves other companies in the pharmaceutical industry to provide comprehensive services from development through manufacturing.

The integration was aimed at enhancing synergy and efficiency by simplifying the governance structure of SK's drug production business. It would increase cost efficiency in global markets by promoting integrated marketing as a single brand. As global competition intensifies, many pharmaceutical companies rely on professional CMOs. SK Group hopes to nurture its CMO business as a major player in the global market.

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