twoXAR & SK Biopharmaceuticals: Discovering and Developing First-In-Class Treatments for Lung Cancer

Aria Pharmaceuticals
3 min readApr 18, 2019

by: Andrew A. Radin

This week I had the pleasure to sign an R&D collaboration agreement with SK Biopharmaceuticals (SKBP; a spin-out of SK Holdings, a global fortune 100 company), our new friends in South Korea’s Pangyo Techno Valley. In the last several months, SKBP has achieved several remarkable drug development milestones, including the first FDA approval of an SKBP-discovered drug (Sunosi™, for excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea, which has been licensed to Jazz Pharmaceuticals) and FDA acceptance of their NDA submission for cenobamate, an investigational antiepileptic drug. With this recent progress, SKBP is quickly emerging as the leading end-to-end pharmaceutical company in South Korea.

Leaders don’t emerge by accident — SKBP is looking to build the next-generation pharmaceutical company and recognizes that technology-driven efficiency is the key. Our team has met many biopharma players in the last few years talking about innovation and adoption of new technology, but SKBP’s commitment to efficiency has enabled them to move at a pace commensurate for a technology-driven world to grow their pipeline in CNS and now oncology.

In our collaboration, we will work together to develop new treatments for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths with more than 200,000 new cases reported annually in the US and a 5-year survival rate of 23%. There is clearly room for better, more efficacious therapeutics and, at twoXAR, we see great promise in AI to drive more efficient drug discovery and development of these therapies than ever before. SKBP has likewise been acting on the same promise by investing heavily in enabling technologies — first in their internal AI drug design platform to identify the properties of drugs and design new compounds, and now by partnering with twoXAR to more efficiently identify candidates with the potential to treat lung cancer through novel biological mechanisms of action. Our complementary capabilities and technologies has the potential to bring first-in-class treatments to IND and the clinic more rapidly than ever before.

We continue to build our portfolio of internal and partnered discovery-stage drug programs at twoXAR and this relationship, as with our other biopharma collaborations, is further strengthened through a shared risk / shared reward partnership. SKBP will retain worldwide rights to develop and commercialize drug candidates from this collaboration and twoXAR will receive an upfront payment and be eligible for development and commercial milestone payments in addition to royalties. With our alignment in team culture, commitment to efficiency, and deal structure, we’re looking forward to starting the real work to bring new treatments to lung cancer patients in need.

Aria Pharmaceuticals

Aria Pharmaceuticals is a preclinical-stage pharmaceutical company discovering and developing novel small molecule therapies for complex diseases.