FivePrime Nabs $495M Deal With Human Genome Sciences to Develop Cancer Drug

3/16/11Follow @xconomy

FivePrime Therapeutics said last summer that there was “significant interest” in its lead protein drug for cancer, and now we can see that interest has translated into a big new partnership.

South San Francisco-based FivePrime said today it has secured a $50 million upfront payment, plus as much as $445 million in additional milestones, as part of a new collaboration with Rockville, MD-based Human Genome Sciences (NASDAQ: HGSI). Human Genome is obtaining the right to develop FivePrime’s drug FP-1039 against multiple cancers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, while FivePrime will retain rights in other territories, and keep an option to co-promote the drug with its bigger partner in the U.S.

FivePrime has spent most of its 9-year history building up a vast library of secreted proteins in the body, which attracted big-name investors like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and a slew of Big Pharma partners like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline. But FP-1039 represents its most mature single asset to emerge from that effort. It is a genetically engineered protein drug made to bind with and inhibit proteins that help form blood vessels that nourish tumors and enable them to grow. Genentech’s bevacizumab (Avastin) acts similarly, although FivePrime’s molecule is made to bind with different proteins, which are members of the fibroblast growth factor family.

The deal is important to FivePrime as it seeks to evolve from a drug discovery engine into a company that also has tangible products with potential to make a difference for patients in clinical trials. And for Human Genome Sciences, this offers another opportunity for the company to grow now that it has recently won FDA approval for the first new drug for lupus in more than 50 years—a product most analysts predict will be a billion-dollar annual seller.

The collaboration “will significantly broaden the clinical plan for FP-1039, enabling us to address the multiple tumor types in which it may have activity,” FivePrime CEO Julia Gregory said in a statement.

The FivePrime drug is currently being studied in a clinical trial designed to evaluate safety in a small number of patients, and has been found safe and well-tolerated so far, the company said. Patients with endometrial cancer are now being screened for a mid-stage clinical trial, FivePrime said.

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