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Ambit Announces Discovery and Development Collaboration with Cephalon

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Ambit Biosciences has announced a screening, discovery and development collaboration with Cephalon, Inc. aimed at bringing kinase inhibitors forward as candidates for clinical research.

By combining Ambit’s proprietary KinomeScan-driven discovery capabilities with Cephalon’s chemistry, discovery and development capabilities, the partners expect to compress typical timelines for discovery and development of small molecule pharmaceutical products.

"While they are our fourth major collaborator, Cephalon is the first pharmaceutical company to take complete advantage of Ambit’s proprietary discovery platform," said Scott Salka, Chief Executive Officer of Ambit.

"The cornerstone of the collaboration is Ambit’s unequaled ability to screen chemical libraries across a panel of 300 kinases, which will be used to rapidly annotate Cephalon’s focused library of potential kinase inhibitors."

Ambit expects to screen a large library of kinase-focused compounds obtained from Cephalon, generating nearly a million data points.

The result will provide a detailed picture of how thousands of related drug-like chemical structures interact with this large family of drug targets.

"Being the first team to exploit such a rich structure-activity database should give the partnership a distinct advantage over competitors in the race to bring superior kinase inhibitors into clinical development and, ultimately, to the market," Salka added.

Cephalon will pay an up-front fee of $18 million to Ambit for access to Ambit’s proprietary KinomeScan technology.

In addition, the companies will collaborate on advancing two programs targeting undisclosed kinases, with Ambit having primary responsibility for delivering clinical candidates that Cephalon will further develop in exchange for additional milestone payments to Ambit of up to $232.5 million and royalties on commercial sales.

Ambit will also have the opportunity to utilize Cephalon library compounds to discover and develop products that are effective inhibitors of certain undisclosed kinases.

"Our structurally diverse, proprietary chemical library of kinase inhibitors is among our most valuable assets," said Jeffry Vaught, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Research & Development at Cephalon.

"We see this collaboration as an opportunity to extract the maximum value from this asset in the shortest period of time."

"Ambit’s technology will allow us to identify the best compounds for further research and to continue improving those we select through ongoing and iterative screening integrated tightly with our own medicinal chemistry and pharmacology efforts."

"Coupled to our collaborative discovery programs with Ambit, we expect to rapidly and efficiently identify drug candidates that effectively inhibit the targeted kinases while minimizing side effects due to off-target kinase modulation."

Ambit’s KinomeScan technology is a way to evaluate libraries of compounds by testing them simultaneously against a large number of human kinases.

This is designed to provide information regarding how strongly the compounds bind to both intended and unintended kinases, revealing the best candidates for preclinical optimization as well as off-target interactions that could either cause unwanted side effects or reveal new indications.

Additionally, the speed of KinomeScan, which can routinely provide a three-day feedback loop between chemistry, pharmacology and screening, allows the technology to be utilized throughout the optimization process until a drug’s desired kinase inhibition profile is obtained.

The KinomeScan screening platform has been featured in papers published in Nature Biotechnology and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and forms the basis of Ambit’s partnerships with Roche, Bristol-Myers SquibbGlaxoSmithKline and others.