Kazia swipes an ex-Sanofi molecule for £1M upfront as they look to replicate their Genentech snag
Kazia has spent most of its young life trying to develop a single Genentech castoff it swiped for $5 million into a brain cancer drug. Now, with that molecule in a pivotal trial, the Aussie biotech is adding another old Big Pharma asset to its reserves.
Kazia announced Monday they in-licensed a small molecule called EVT801 from Evotec for a nominal upfront fee – $1.4 million — and $428 million in potential milestones. The company said they plan to launch a Phase I trial for the drug, a new VEGFR inhibitor, later this year.
Although licensed from Evotec, the drug was originally discovered by Sanofi. It was part of the €250 million, 2015 agreement that saw Evotec take control of Sanofi’s Toulouse, France operations and attempt to build out a broader oncology pipeline. As with most programs developed by the German discovery specialist, Evotec would then look to partner those out.
Kazia has yet to produce randomized data for the Genentech candidate, paxalisib, it licensed in 2016, but data from a small Phase II trial pointed to overall survival of 17.7 months in glioblastoma, or what they claimed was about 5 months longer than the standard of care. They are now relying on an investigator-initiated trial from the non-profit Global Coalition for Adaptive Research to provide pivotal data. It’s comparing 4 different treatment regimens across 1030 patients.
That 2016 deal, though, has already proven a major boon to the company. Then known as Novogen, the biotech had a market cap of less than $40 million when new CEO James Garner took paxalisib off Genentech’s hands for just $5 million cash. Based off the Phase II data — and boosted by the overall biopharma stock boom — they are now worth around $150 million.
The new deal represents another low-risk, high-reward bet. Although VEGF inhibitiors — Sutent, Lenvima, Cabometyx — have been around for years, Kazia claims the EVT801 is more selective than its predecessors. By hitting just VEGFR3 as opposed to all VEGFR receptors, the drug offers a much safer profile, they claim.
Kazia said they plan to test the drug in renal cell carcinoma, hepatocellular carcinoma and soft tissue sarcoma. In addition to monotherapy, they also plan to combine the molecule with immunotherapy drugs.
Evotec’s role in development will continue. They will continue to provide CMC services and Kazia will pay them to develop a biomarker to test the drug’s effectiveness.