Arbutus Biopharma, X-Chem and Proteros biostructures Enter into a Pan-Coronavirus Discovery Research and License Agreement

Collaboration formed to accelerate the discovery of novel oral inhibitors targeting the SARS-CoV-2 nsp5 main protease for the treatment of COVID-19 and potential future coronavirus outbreaks

WARMINSTER, PA and WALTHAM, MA, USA and MUNICH, Germany I April 01, 2021 I Arbutus Biopharma Corporation (NASDAQ: ABUS), X-Chem, Inc. (X-Chem) and Proteros biostructures GmbH (Proteros) announced today that they have entered into a discovery research and license agreement focused on the discovery of novel inhibitors targeting the SARS-CoV-2 nsp5 main protease (Mpro). The agreement is designed to accelerate the development of pan-coronavirus agents to treat COVID-19 and potential future coronavirus outbreaks.

This collaboration brings together Arbutus’ expertise in the discovery and development of antiviral agents with X-Chem’s industry leading DNA-encoded library (DEL) technology and Proteros’ protein sciences, biophysics and structural biology capabilities and provides important synergies to potentially identify safe and effective therapies against coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2. The collaboration will allow for the rapid screening of one of the largest small molecule libraries against Mpro (an essential protein required for the virus to replicate itself) and the use of state-of-the-art structure guided methods to rapidly optimize Mpro inhibitors, which Arbutus could potentially progress to clinical candidates. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“It is well accepted that in addition to the availability of vaccines, effective and safe therapies are needed to successfully combat the COVID-19 pandemic and any future coronavirus outbreaks,” stated Dr. Michael Sofia, Arbutus’s Chief Scientific Officer. “Arbutus, X-Chem and Proteros have complementary and valuable expertise that makes this collaboration particularly well-suited for small molecule drug discovery targeting coronaviruses. Our goal is to identify unique and differentiated pan-coronavirus assets targeting the main coronavirus protease which, when combined with assets arising from our internal nucleoside program targeting the SARS-CoV-2 nsp12 viral polymerase, could deliver a much-needed all-oral antiviral treatment for SARS-CoV-2 and any potential future coronavirus outbreaks.”

“We are delighted of this joint discovery research collaboration with Arbutus and X-Chem, which has the potential to identify unique small molecule treatment options for COVID-19 and other possible coronavirus related respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Torsten Neuefeind, Proteros’ CEO. “The complementary strengths of all parties gives us a strong position to potentially inhibit a key enzyme with a central role in the viral life cycle in a specific and effective manner.”

“The discovery and development of novel drugs to combat infections caused by coronavirus is an incredibly important and challenging task,” added Matt Clark, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of X-Chem. “We are exhilarated to join forces with industry leaders Arbutus and Proteros in this effort and bring our drug discovery expertise to this important area of antiviral research.”

About Arbutus

Arbutus Biopharma Corporation is a publicly traded (Nasdaq: ABUS) biopharmaceutical company primarily dedicated to discovering, developing and commercializing a cure for people with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Arbutus is advancing multiple drug product candidates that may be combined into a potentially curative regimen for chronic HBV infection. Arbutus has also initiated a drug discovery and development effort for treating coronaviruses (including COVID-19). For more information, please visit

About Proteros biostructures GmbH

Proteros is a privately held early-stage drug discovery services provider committed to helping pharmaceutical and biotech companies unlock even the most challenging drug targets.

Proteros pioneered the industrialization of structural biology, and has developed a cutting-edge drug discovery platform that encompasses protein sciences, protein crystallography and cryo-EM, assays, biophysics and screening, positioned to open the door to lead optimization and clinical programs for technically demanding targets. The company works continuously with most of the world’s 20 largest pharma companies and its global client base spans more than 200 pharmaceutical and biotech partners in the US, Europe and Japan.

For more information please visit

About X-Chem

X-Chem is the industry-leading provider of DNA-Encoded Library (DEL)-based discovery services. X-Chem has entered into drug discovery partnerships with numerous pharmaceutical companies, established and early-stage biotechnology companies, as well as research institutes and universities resulting in the licensing of hundreds of novel hits and leads across many target classes and therapeutic areas. X-Chem’s clients and licensees include AbbVie, Astellas, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Genentech, Gilead, Janssen, Maruho, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Otsuka, and Vertex, among others. For further information, please visit  

SOURCE: Arbutus Biopharma

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