Verastem, Inc. VSTM announced that it has signed a global licensing agreement with Japan-based Chugai Pharmaceutical. Per the terms of the agreement, Verastem will gain worldwide development and commercialization rights to Chugai’s RAF/MEK inhibitor, CH5126766. Chugai is currently developing the candidate as a treatment of KRAS mutant solid tumors.
Verastem will pay Chugai $3 million in upfront payment along with royalties. Verastem will be responsible for future development of CH5126766 and its commercialization globally. The company may look for various partnering strategies for development of the candidate.
Investors cheered the news and shares were up 36.5% on Jan 8. However, the company’s shares have declined 58% in the past year compared with the industry’s decrease of 2.9%.
Synergry has been observed in pre-clinical KRAS mutant models for combination of FAK and MEK inhibitors. Based on this observation the company has gained rights to CH5126766 for developing it in combination with its FAK inhibitor, defactinib. Currently, CH5126766 in combination with defactinib is being evaluated in a phase I/II study in patients with KRAS mutant advanced solid tumors, including low grade serous ovarian cancer (LGSOC), non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and colorectal cancer.
The company plans to present clinical data from a study on defactinib plus CH5126766 and discuss development plans and registration path for this regimen with regulatory authorities in the first half of 2020.
Verastem is also developing defactinib as monotherapy or in combination regimens for ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, mesothelioma, NSCLC and other solid tumors. The candidate is being evaluated in combination with Merck's MRK PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda and Eli Lilly’s LLY chemotherapy, Gemzar, for treating patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.
Meanwhile, Versatem continues to develop its leukemia drug, Copiktra, into additional indications including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lung cancer, peripheral T-cell lymphoma, and others. In 2016, Verastem had in-licensed Copiktra from Infinity Pharmaceuticals INFI. The drug received FDA approval in 2018 for treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma after at least two prior therapies and follicular lymphoma after at least two prior systemic therapies. The drug generated $8.7 million in sales in the first nine months of 2019.
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Verastem currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
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