- San Diego-based MEI Pharma on Monday entered into a co-development and commercialization deal with Helsinn, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, to develop its cancer drug as part of combo therapy for the treatment of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
- Under the terms of the deal, MEI will receive $15 million upfront, plus another $5 million when the first patient is dosed in a upcoming Phase 3 trial of the drug, known as pracinostat. Helsinn also lined up a lucrative development pathway, with $444 million in potential milestones.
- Pracinostat is an orally active enzyme which acts as an epigenetic regulator by chemically modifying DNA and altering gene expression. The drug has been tested against both hematologic and solid tumors in earlier testing.
According to American Cancer Society estimates, there are roughly 21,000 new cases of AML each year, mostly in people in their 60s and older. Despite promising developments, AML is still being treated with intensive first-line chemotherapy, making it difficult for many patients to handle treatment.
Helsinn is aiming at brodening its reach in oncology and gains a exlcusive global license to pracinostat under the deal.
"This agreement broadens our focus beyond cancer supportive care products and into the development of oncology therapeutics. Helsinn Therapeutics, our US sales organization, will allow us to accelerate the development and commercialization of this product, once approved," said Riccardo Braglia, Helsinn Group Vice Chairman and CEO.
At the same time, MEI Pharma will have the financial support needed to continue to develop pracinostat for myeldoplastic syndrome, which the company continues to focus on despite a mid-stage setback .
Helsinn plans to start the phase 3 trial at some point during the first half of 2017.