Genentech signed onto a $47 million partnership with biotech Orionis Biosciences to focus on discovering novel small molecule therapies across various therapeutic areas, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Genentech, an independent subsidiary of Roche, will spend $47 million on the deal, with the potential for additional milestone payments that could be worth more than $2 billion, the company said Wednesday.

At the center of the partnership is Orionis’ Allo-Glue technology, which can identify molecular glues – or molecules that assist in bringing two proteins together for a therapeutic target, when they normally wouldn’t interact.

“Molecular glue degraders are an exciting modality to target disease-related proteins that have proven challenging with more traditional treatment modalities,” James Sabry, global head at Roche Pharma Partnering, said in a statement.

Sabry added that molecular glues offer a new therapeutic approach to modulate major disease drivers for patients with unmet needs.

The Allo-Glue platform provides several proprietary chemical biology technologies, the press release noted, including biological assays, computational analyses and chemical libraries.

The partnership will involve Orionis leading the discovery and optimization for Genentech’s targets. The South San Francisco biotech will then take charge of preclinical and clinical development, as well as regulatory filing and commercialization of small molecules discovered.

“Molecular glues represent one of the most exciting recent developments in small-molecule drug discovery,” Orionis CEO Nikolai Kley said in a statement. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Genentech, a company long known for its world-class science and trailblazing medicines, to make use of technological innovations that we have systematically evolved over the past years to unlock novel target space with such drug modalities.”

Riccardo Sabatinni, chief data scientist at Orionis, added that it was “exciting to see how synergies created by the integration of our biological, chemical and computational technologies are being leveraged for the discovery and design of molecular glues.”

The announcement comes after Genentech launched several campaigns this year, including a direct-to-consumer campaign for Vabysmo, a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic macular edema. 

It also held the second installment of its Double Take fashion show in Orlando, Florida, this summer – focused on people living with spinal muscular atrophy.