- In a potential $1 billion deal, Roche entered a collaboration agreement with Cambridge, MA-based Blueprint Medicines for the development of up to five small molecule cancer immunotherapies, Blueprint said on Tuesday.
- Roche will pay Blueprint $45 million upfront, with $965 million in tiered option fees and milestone payments. Blueprint works specifically on targeting intracellular immunokinases in order to boost the immune system's response to tumors. This approach shares a similar goal to other immunotherapies, but distinguishes itself by focusing on immunokinases rather than on antibodies.
- Further boosting Roche's cancer immunotherapy fortunes, the FDA on Tuesday designated the drugmaker's bladder cancer med atezolizumab for priority review. Atezolizumab is an anti-PDL1 therapy for the treatment of uorthelial carcinoma.
While the deal certainly holds a great deal of potential, Blueprint Medicines' work is still very much in the early stages. The biotech will be responsible for preclinical research up through Phase 1 proof of concept for all five small molecules. Under the terms of the deal, Roche has option rights for an exclusive license for each molecule once Blueprint hits proof of concept.
If Roche exercises its option, it will move the candidate forward through clinical development. Blueprint can retain U.S. commercialization rights to up to two molecules, while Roche would gain global commercialization rights for the other three.
"We believe Blueprint Medicines' proprietary drug discovery platform and expertise in immunokinases, combined with our proven ability to move quickly through drug discovery, is a perfect complement to Roche's expertise with cancer immunotherapy biology and in developing and commercializing innovative therapies," said Blueprint CEO Jeff Albers.
Roche is competing with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck in the cancer immunotherapy space, both of which have major anti-PD1 immunotherapies already on the market (Opdivo and Keytruda respectively).
Opdivo and Keytruda are both indicated for treatment of specific subpopulations in melanoma and lung cancer. Roche's atezolizumab, on the other hand, is being developed for second-line treatment of urothelial carcinoma, which accounts for 90% of all bladder cancers.
Atezolizumab is forecast to hit $5 billion in annual sales by 2020, according to Thomson Reuters. The drug has a target FDA action date of September 12, 2016.