A long-suffering Clovis makes a leap into radiopharmaceuticals, paying $12M in cash to beef up the pipeline
In the 17 months since Clovis won an approval for their PARP drug Rubraca, the reality of anemic sales revenue against a backdrop of major league competition has crushed its shares and raised doubts about its future. So now it’s going about the business of adding new candidates to the pipeline that might help inspire some renewed enthusiasm for the company.
Monday morning Clovis reported that it is handing over $12 million in upfront payments to Berlin-based 3B Pharmaceuticals to nab rights to preclinical radiopharmaceuticals. And the Boulder, CO-based biotech says it plans to steer the first drug to the clinic in the second half of next year.
Their new target is fibroblast activation protein alpha, or FAP, which is expressed on a broad range of tumors. Researchers at Clovis plan to expand on that with additional drugs spawned on the 3BP platform, as the US biotech takes responsibility for covering the work of a “limited” number of the German company’s investigators. 3BP is keeping European rights to their drugs, while Clovis takes the US and most of the rest of the world.
Two years ago, when Rubraca was being guided through an added FDA approval, investors’ hopes were running high on Clovis. But in its latest quarterly update the company conceded that it managed to eke out only $33 million in sales. AstraZeneca has dominated the PARP field, though GSK believes they can break out of their niche after buying Tesaro and compete for a much larger share of the pie. Pfizer is also in the game.
Novartis has helped spotlight the radiopharmaceutical field with a series of new investments. Late last year, weeks after the pharma giant snapped up Endocyte and its radioisotope drug Lu-PSMA-617 in a $2.1 billion deal — adding it to the Advanced Accelerator Applications group it acquired a little more than a year ago for $3.9 billion — its dealmaking crew added global rights to a new radiopharmaceutical called FF-10158 for oncology indications.
Clovis, though, has a history of over promising and underperforming. For 4 critical months in 2015, Clovis and its executives — led by CEO Patrick Mahaffy — maintained that their cancer drug roci had performed beautifully in clinical trials, with a 60% efficacy rate that blew the analysts away. That’s what they told investors, raising $298 million with a fat stock price in July of 2015. The SEC called their ORR out as a lie, though Mahaffy and the company were able to settle the charges by paying some light fines.
“Targeted radiopharmaceutical therapy represents a next frontier in oncology drug development, with potential application across multiple tumor types. In particular, FAP represents a very compelling target given its overexpression across numerous tumor types and limited expression in healthy tissue,” said Mahaffy in a statement.