Avila Therapeutics has a new target for its unique class of drugs—lung cancer. The Waltham, MA-based biotech startup has clinched a $209 million deal with Clovis Oncology for drugs against mutated tumors in the lungs, according to the companies.
The companies are keeping a tight lid on the details of the deal, including how much cash Clovis is paying Avila upfront versus downstream in the form of potential milestone payments. Avila says that the deal includes an upfront payment, development and sales milestone fees that could total as much as $209 million. The firm also has a shot at making money from royalties on potential sales of drugs that result from its partnership with Clovis.
Boulder, CO-based Clovis is tapping Avila’s technology to combat non-small cell lung cancer that has built resistance to existing treatments such as the anti-tumor pills erlotinib (Tarceva) and gefitinib (Iressa). The Avila approach is thought to be promising against resistance, because its drugs are designed to form irreversible covalent bonds with their targets, making it a lot tougher for tumors to find an escape valve to keep growing. Avila and Clovis are seeking to develop a drug like this that can block a specific a mutation that is that is thought to prevent those existing treatments from binding with proteins that help lung cancer cells grow. Also, Avila could make drugs that target only the growth proteins with the mutation, meaning that healthy tissues where the proteins are present would be spared.
Clovis is funding clinical development and commercialization of Avila’s lung cancer drugs, which are in pre-clinical development. The Colorado company is also paying to develop a diagnostic test that would identify patients with mutated forms of lung cancer who are most likely to benefit from the drug.
Avila’s deal with Clovis builds on its existing research of drugs to combat resistant forms of hepatitis C and immune system malignancies. The firm, founded in 2007, brought in $51 million through two rounds of venture capital funding from Abingworth Management, Advent Venture Partners, Atlas Venture, Novartis Venture Fund, and Polaris Venture Partners. We’ll have a chance to hear more from Avila CEO Katrine Bosley next month, as she is one of the featured speakers at Xconony’s XSITE business innovation forum at Babson College on June 17.