As an Amgen's PhIII cardio plan takes shape, Royalty Pharma snags a stake in future sales
A few days after Amgen charted a Phase III map for an up-and-coming cardio drug, the biotech behind its development has decided to cash out.
Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals announced Wednesday morning that it has sold its royalty stake in olpasiran, a siRNA drug developed in-house, to Royalty Pharma for $250 million in upfront cash, plus another $160 million in milestones. The sale represents all of Arrowhead’s royalties in the program, though the biotech kept the rights to possible downstream milestones from Amgen, worth up to another $400 million.
In a prepared statement, Arrowhead CEO Chris Anzalone said the new cash infusion will help the company invest back into its RNAi platform and further pipeline programs.
Arrowhead licensed olpasiran to Amgen back in September 2016, when the big biopharma shelled out $35 million in cash upfront and invested another $21.5 million in equity, as part of two cardio deals. At the time, Amgen promised Arrowhead up to $617 million in milestones and low double-digit royalties on lipoprotein(a)-reducing programs — olpasiran’s target.
Wednesday’s news comes after Amgen reported extended Phase II data at the AHA Annual Meeting over the weekend, showing how olpasiran, in 281 patients, induced a 95% or greater reduction in Lp(a) compared to placebo after about eight months. The results have given Amgen further confidence in a Phase III program, expected to kick off next month.
For Royalty Pharma, the move falls right into line with its business model, paying out hefty sums for future royalties to cash-needy biotechs. The recent downturn has fueled billionaire Pablo Legorreta’s niche industry this year, as the bear market hammered the biotech sector and traditional financing avenues closed up.
But Royalty has also invested in some R&D, teaming up with Merck last month on a Phase IIb schizophrenia drug for $50 million upfront. If everything goes well in that study — not a sure thing, given the history of the field — then Royalty would spend another $375 million to help fund the pivotal trial.