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Google’s Calico, C4 Therapeutics form anti-aging collaboration

March 25, 2017

C4 Therapeutics (C4T), located in Cambridge, Mass., and Calico, a Google/Alphabet company in South San Francisco, Calif. announced today a five-year collaboration deal.

Calico is focused on longevity and anti-aging. Aside from that, the company tends—like many Google/Alphabet moonshot programs—to hide beneath a cone of silence. In August 2016, the company hired Daphne Koller as its chief computing officer. Koller was the co-founder of Coursera.

Today’s announcement indicates that C4 and Calico will “leverage C4T’s expertise and capabilities in targeted protein degradation to jointly discover and advance small molecule protein degraders as therapeutic agents to remove certain disease-causing proteins.”

C4 will focus on preclinical research and Calico will handle any subsequent clinical development and commercialization.

“We know from decades of translational research that it can be incredibly challenging to find effective pharmacologic inhibitors of many of the biologically well-validated targets, particularly in cancer,” said Hal Barron, Calico’s president of Research and Development, in a statement. “Through the alternative strategy of specifically targeting such proteins for degradation, we believe we have the opportunity to identify promising new therapeutics in cancer and in other diseases as well. We’re looking forward to collaborating with C4T’s scientists and applying their protein degradation technology to the discovery and development of effective new treatments.”

In September 2015, Calico announced a collaboration deal with Chicago-based AbbVie (ABBV). As part of the collaboration, Calico is creating a research and development facility to focus on drug discovery and early drug development. Both companies initially ponied up $250 million each, with another $500 million possible.

It has also created various relationships with companies like AncestryDNA, the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, Calif., the University of California, San Francisco and the University of California’s QB3 Institute. In addition, it has ties to the Broad Institute and Jackson Laboratory, as well as Ancestry Inc.

In the past, Calico’s chief executive officer, Art Levinson, in defense of his company’s tightlipped approach to business, told the San Francisco Business Times that it wasn’t secretive, that if they had something significant to announce it would. There is a feeling at times that Google/Alphabet is telling investors, “Never mind what we’re doing, just trust us, we’re Google (GOOG).”

Andy Phillips, president and chief scientific officer of C4 told John Carroll, with Endpoints News, “I’m not sharing how many things are being worked on. We’ve agreed with Calico that we can’t comment on their behalf in regards to these types of things.”

C4 launched slightly more than a year ago with $73 million financing led by Cobro Ventures, and included Novartis (NVS) along with a $750 million partnership with Roche (RHHBY). The company focuses on developing drugs based on what it calls the DEGRONIMID paradigm. DEGRONIMID recruits the E3 ligase cereblon, part of the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), to BRD4 by the proteasome. In other words, C4 is developing ways to tag harmful proteins so they can be removed from the body.

In late 2016, Phillips told BioSpace, “It’s similar to putting out trash, in many ways. Small towns and cities have pretty organized systems for getting rid of things. We put little Post-it notes on recycled materials or trash for the landfill, and cells have a similar system—a system called ubiquitin, to determine whether things are headed for general recycling or specifically headed for the trash. And there’s a system for putting the ubiquitin tags on as well.”

No financial terms, technical specifics or timelines other than five years were reported.

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