Avacta enters license agreement with POINT Biopharma

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Avacta Group has entered into a license agreement with Canada’s POINT Biopharma to provide access to the former’s pre|CISION technology for the development of tumour-activated radiopharmaceuticals.

The radiopharmaceutical market is expected to grow to $15 billion by 2025 and there is a substantial opportunity to grow much faster if safety and tolerability of these effective treatments can be improved.

POINT Biopharma is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company focused on developing radioligands as precision medicines for the treatment of cancer.

Avacta’s proprietary pre|CISION chemistry can be used to modify a radioligand drug to form a tumour-activated prodrug.

The prodrug form is inactive in circulation until it enters the tumour micro-environment where it is activated by an enzyme called fibroblast activation protein (or FAP) that is present in high abundance in most solid tumours but not in healthy tissue.

Avacta’s pre|CISION technology therefore has the potential to improve the tolerability and achieve better clinical outcomes for patients compared with standard radiopharmaceuticals by targeting the radioligand treatment more specifically to cancer cells.

The agreement provides POINT with an exclusive license to the pre|CISION technology for use in the first radiopharmaceutical prodrug the company intends to develop, and a non-exclusive license to the pre|CISION platform for the development of a broader pipeline of FAP-activated radiopharmaceuticals.

As per the agreement, Avacta will receive an upfront fee and development milestones for the first radiopharmaceutical prodrug totaling $9.5 million.

Avacta will also receive milestone payments for subsequent radiopharmaceutical prodrugs of up to $8 million each, a royalty on sales of FAP-activated radiopharmaceuticals by POINT and a percentage of any sublicensing income received by POINT.

“I am very pleased to have established this partnership with POINT that allows Avacta to exploit its pre|CISION platform in a therapeutic area outside of our in-house focus on chemotherapy prodrugs,” said Alastair Smith, CEO of listed Wetherby-based Avacta Group.

“The clinical and commercial rationale for our pre|CISION prodrug platform is to improve the safety and efficacy of many existing drugs, as well as generating a pipeline of new and novel cancer therapies.

“In oncology, we believe that this approach will result in better response rates for monotherapies, and a greater safety margin, to enable their use with a larger patient population and as part of combination therapies.

“The in-house development of AVA6000 Pro-doxorubicin, the first of our pre|CISION chemotherapy prodrugs for which we have recently submitted a CTA filing in the UK to begin clinical trials in 2021, has already generated significant interest and this is highlighted by the agreement with POINT announced today.

“The potential of the pre|CISION platform to significantly improve outcomes for patients treated with existing cancer therapies through improved safety, tolerability and dosing regimens is enormous.

“In addition, Avacta is combining the pre|CISION technology with the Affimer platform to create an entirely new class of proprietary TMAC drug conjugates.

AstraZeneca divests Atacand to Cheplapharm in over 70 countries

AstraZeneca has completed the divestment of commercial rights to Atacand (candesartan cilexetil) and Atacand Plus (a fixed-dose combination of candesartan cilexetil and hydrochlorothiazide) in over 70 countries to Cheplapharm.

Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca received a payment of $250 million from Cheplapharm.

AstraZeneca will receive further non-contingent payments equal to $150m during the first half of 2021.

The present value of all payments, totalling $400m, will be reported in AstraZeneca’s financial statements within Other Operating Income in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Atacand (candesartan cilexetil) is a selective AT1 subtype angiotensin II receptor antagonist that is indicated for the management of hypertension in adults and children/adolescents, as well as heart failure in adults.

Atacand Plus is indicated for the management of hypertension when candesartan or hydrochlorothiazide monotherapy is not sufficiently effective.

Atacand was developed in collaboration with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company.

Israeli authorises Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine

Israel’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has given authorisation to import the Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in Israel.

“Today’s authorisation is a landmark moment in our company’s history and in the global fight against COVID-19,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna.

“This is the third regulatory authorisation for the COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna, and its first outside of North America.”

The MOH has secured 6 million doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna. Planned deliveries reflect today’s authorisation to supply the vaccine in Israel, and first deliveries are expected to begin shortly.

Israel is the third country for which Moderna has received authorisation for its COVID-19 vaccine, following the United States on December 18, 2020 and Canada on December 23, 2020.

Additional authorisations are currently under review in the European Union, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The decision from the MOH is based on a rolling submission of data and is based on the totality of scientific evidence shared by the company, including a data analysis from the pivotal Phase 3 clinical study announced on November 30.