Novartis sends second wagon after KRAS gold rush
Joining the barrage of companies digging headfirst into the newly opened KRAS mine, Novartis has announced a multiyear agreement with Sixth Element Capital and the UK Beatson Institute for Cancer Research to develop small molecules identified by the institute’s drug discovery unit.
The deal, whose specifics have not been disclosed, is the Swiss giant’s second KRAS collaboration since June, when Amgen electrified the field by revealing the first patient efficacy data from a therapy aimed at one of the most pervasive, oldest and evasive cancer mutation targets. In July, Novartis inked a low-money deal with Mirati Therapeutics.
That deal would see Novartis pairing its SHP2 inhibitor with Mirati’s years-in-the-making KRAS G12C inhibitor, acting on a popular theory that combining a KRAS inhibitor with another inhibitor – and particularly SHP2 – will affect the protein’s cycles and make it an easier target. The idea earned Revolution Medicines $100 million in funding on the same day.
This new collaboration will see Novartis dig its hands directly into RAS inhibitors as it works to turn the Beatson’s molecules into actionable therapies. Sixth Element Capital’s CRT Pioneer Fund will receive an upfront payment to fund cancer research at the Beatson Institute, along with potential milestones and single-digit royalties.
Despite the recent torrent of cash and collaborations that have flooded the KRAS field, clinical evidence is still scant. Amgen’s second update from trials on their inhibitor, AMG510, at the end of September was far less promising than their first rollout on lung cancer, with a single partial response out of 12 colorectal cancer patients. The initial lung cancer group showed 7 out of 13 patients responded.
Amgen oncology head Greg Friberg, though, said at the time that was to a degree expected: Colon cancer is biologically more complex than lung cancer and thus a harder target.
We’ll know more Monday afternoon, when Mirati unveils the first look at their clinical trial. After 40 years of molecular and pre-clinical work, the torrent of clinical data is just beginning.