- Repare Therapeutics has won a significant vote of confidence in its technology as Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche agreed to pay $125 million upfront for rights to the biotech’s most advanced, experimental cancer drug.
- The deal includes the potential for another $1.2 billion in payments if certain goals are met, including $55 million in the near term, Repare said in a statement. The company’s shares shot up 39%, to $12.16 apiece, in early trading Thursday.
- Under the agreement, Repare will receive royalties on sales if the drug, camonsertib or RP-3500, wins regulatory approvals around the world. The biotech can also opt in to jointly develop, market and share profits with Roche in the U.S.
The most immediate effect of the deal is a much-needed infusion of funds for Repare, which went public in 2020 at a price of $20 a share. The company’s stock soared above $42 in early 2021, only to plummet as investors turned sour on biotech startups.
Repare ended the first quarter with $312 million in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. With the Roche deal in hand, company executives told investors the biotech's cash runway will be extended into 2026.
Repare is going after cancer with an approach known as “synthetic lethality,” using drugs to exploit genetic vulnerabilities in cancer cells. It’s the same idea behind approved therapies including AstraZeneca and Merck & Co.’s Lynparza, which targets an enzyme known as PARP that cancer cells need to repair DNA damage. In the case of camonsertib, the target is a kinase known as ATR.
Camonsertib is Repare’s lead product and it’s currently in early-stage testing. The company has been bullish on early results when used as a single therapy, though investors and analysts have been more hesitant. Stifel analyst Benjamin Burnett, for example, called those data "marginal" and believes ongoing efforts to test the drug alongside PARP inhibitors will "likely require additional dose-finding work" because of safety concerns, according to a research note.
Roche’s interest, however, suggests that the drug may have more potential that the results released so far suggest, especially as a combination treatment, Burnett added. He said he now thinks the drug has a 50% chance of success in ovarian cancer, compared with 20% previously.