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Skyhawk Therapeutics Announces Expansion of its Collaboration Agreement with Merck

Skyhawk Therapeutics Announces Expansion of its Collaboration Agreement with Merck to Discover and Develop Novel Small Molecules that Modulate RNA Splicing

Skyhawk will deploy its SkySTARTM platform to develop drug candidates directed to multiple new targets for autoimmune and metabolic diseases. Skyhawk is eligible to receive approximately $600 million per program target consisting of an upfront cash payment and, if Merck exercises its option, potential opt-in fees, milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales of commercialized products.

WALTHAM, Mass., May 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Skyhawk Therapeutics, Inc. (“Skyhawk”) today announced that it has expanded its strategic collaboration with Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, to discover, develop and commercialize small molecules that modulate RNA splicing. Skyhawk’s proprietary SkySTARTM technology platform will be employed to discover and develop innovative RNA-binding small molecules designed to selectively modify RNA splicing, as a new modality for the potential treatment of certain autoimmune and metabolic diseases. The collaboration now spans four disease areas: neurodegeneration, oncology, autoimmunity, and metabolic diseases. 

Under the collaboration agreement, Skyhawk will grant Merck, through a subsidiary, the option to exclusively license worldwide intellectual property rights to candidates discovered and developed under the collaboration that are directed to program targets. Following Merck’s exercise of its option, Merck will be responsible for further development and commercialization. Skyhawk will receive an upfront cash payment and, to the extent Merck exercises its option, potential milestone payments and royalties on sales of approved products resulting from the collaboration. 

“Merck has been a wonderful partner in discovering novel drug candidates for neurological diseases and cancer,” said Bill Haney, co-founder and CEO of Skyhawk Therapeutics. “Our expanded collaboration into autoimmune and metabolic diseases reflects the success to date in the SkySTARTM platform’s ability to advance small molecules that can address the unmet medical needs of patients. Skyhawk’s team is delighted to be working with a partner with such a long history of commitment to challenging diseases, and relentless pursuit of developing new treatment options for patients.” 

“RNA splicing modification offers a new approach to modulating targets previously considered undruggable,” said Dr. Dean Y. Li, senior vice president, Discovery Sciences and Translational Medicine, Merck Research Laboratories. “We look forward to expanding our collaborative efforts to explore the potential of this new modality in additional disease areas.”

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Maura McCarthy


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