- Massachusetts companies Infinity Pharmaceuticals and Verastem inked a deal Wednesday which will give Verastem exclusive rights to produce and market the experimental oncology treatment duvelisib.
- In return, Infinity could receive up to $28 million in milestones, contingent on positive trial data and U.S. approval. Verastem would also be on the hook for low net sales royalties, and assume Infinity's obligation to pay MundiPharma and Purdue Pharmaceutical Products 4% royalties on any sales of duvelisib.
- Duvelisib works to fight blood cancers by inhibiting enzymes that foster malignant B-cells and T-cells. The drug is currently in a Phase 3 trial for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), results of which are expected in the first half of 2017, according to a November 2 statement from Infinity.
Infinity has been reeling since June 14, when it reported less-positive-than-expected results from a Phase 2 study of its P13K inhibitor duvelisib. Those results buried Infinity's stock, which dropped nearly 70%. That same day, the company shut down its discovery research organization and terminated 46 positions, or 21% of its workforce.
Matters weren't helped two weeks later when AbbVie subsequently pulled out of its partnership to co-develop duvelisib, and Infinity announced more layoffs, affecting nearly 100 employees.
Still, positive clinical data, as well as the upcoming release of Phase 3 results, made duvelisib an attractive asset for Verastem.
"The data has been publicly presented before from various trials is incredibly encouraging," Verastem Chief Medical Officer Greg Berk said via phone. "It's obviously very attractive to us because we have a very significant milestone event coming up … which could support registration."
Verastem had been eyeing the cancer drug for some time, according to its Chief Operating Officer Dan Paterson. Looking to advance its portfolio, the company reached out to Infinity about the licensing deal in early October.
"This was dead center in our strategy, and when we saw them seeing some challenges and reached out to them, we were very excited to get a drug that was more advanced than our (CLL) drug," Paterson said in an interview.
"Verastem provides duvelisib the best opportunity to advance toward regulatory filings and potential commercialization given their oncology-focused capabilities and deep knowledge of the tumor microenvironment,” Infinity CEO Adelene Perkins said in the November 2 statement.
“Additionally, the license of duvelisib fulfills an important strategic goal for Infinity by preserving cash while enabling our shareholders to participate in the value of the duvelisib program through potential milestone payments and royalties to Infinity,” Perkins said.
Infinity reported cash and cash equivalents of $122 million as of June 30, according to its most recent 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In last year's annual financial report, the company revealed it had spent more than $472 million since 2006 on R&D into blood cancer enzyme inhibitors.
Verastem has another P13K in clinical development, along with two focal adhesion kinase (FAK) inhibitors.