ym has an egfr-antibody in develpoment. cancervax� approach is for the patients immune system to mount an attack against egf-receptor. so did ym license out technology that enables cancervax to directly compete with YM�s antibody directed against egf-r?
In July, the U.S. Department of the Treasury gave CancerVax Corp. of San Diego the green light to license a package of three drugs that were developed at the Centre of Molecular Immunology (CIM) in Havana.
The package included two early stage cancer compounds from YM BioSciences Inc. of Mississauga, which has been CIM's licensing partner since 1995.
CancerVax also picked up a cancer vaccine that YM returned to CIM in 2002 as part of a corporate refocusing.
"This is the first time a Cuban-originated biological product has been licensed by a U.S. company," said YM president and chief executive officer David Allan, referring to CancerVax's two-year lobbying in Congress to drive a wedge in the Helms-Burton Act. The legislation prohibits Americans from any commercial venture that would funnel money to Cuba.
"The astonishing thing to me is that it happened at all."
While CIM and YM get up-front cash and future royalties if CancerVax's testing succeeds, YM retained ownership of the drug TheraCIM.
TheraCIM is an antibody that targets the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor to block tumour growth, a mechanism of action that makes it equivalent to ImClone Systems Inc.'s hot-selling Erbitux cancer drug.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said the CancerVax licence was a unique case that recognized the "potential to successfully treat a deadly disease using technology not otherwise available."
As a matter of policy, he said the government will continue to "consider licence requests where there is a potential benefit to U.S. public health."
Mr. Allan said CancerVax's breakthrough is expected to accelerate YM's negotiations to sign a sales and marketing deal for TheraCIM with a U.S. drug company.
"My guess is it will go quite quickly," he said, adding that TheraCIM is the only EGF receptor drug without a marketing partner in the United States. The reason: the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba that prevented companies from even negotiating with YM.
YM has already partnered TheraCIM in Europe with Oncoscience AG of Germany, which is planning several clinical trials this year, including a late-stage study in brain cancer.
The drug has won 10 years of marketing exclusivity if approved, which could help the drug approval process in the United States, analysts say.
"[Brain cancer] is a small market but in oncology, if you get something approved, oncologists tend to use it off-label for other cancers," said Dlouhy Merchant Group analyst Doug Loe.
Sprott Securities analyst David Dean, who initiated coverage of YM in June with a 12-month target price of $7, calls the stock price "dramatically undervalued." It closed Friday at $3.35 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, giving the company a market value of $94.4-million.