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WARF, Cellectar Expand Licensing Agreement For Blood Cancer Drug

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

The organization that manages patents and licensing of intellectual property for the University of Wisconsin-Madison has expanded a licensing agreement with Cellectar Biosciences, a developer of cancer drugs, the company said earlier this week.

The agreement, between the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and Madison, WI-based Cellectar (NASDAQ: CLRB), covers the use of the company’s leading drug candidate. The compound, known as CLR 131, has the potential to treat malignant tumors and certain forms of blood cancer, including multiple myeloma, Cellectar has said.

Cellectar and WARF had previously been joint owners of a patent filing for CLR 131 for treating multiple myeloma, and that is still the case, says a spokesperson for Cellectar; however, following the expansion of the licensing agreement, Cellectar now has the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize CLR 131 in multiple myeloma. The spokesperson declined to say whether WARF received a cash payment or would receive a percentage of future royal royalties under the terms of the agreement to expand the licensing agreement.

“Acquiring the remaining rights to the use of CLR 131 in multiple myeloma now provides us with complete control over the product’s development and commercialization,” says Jim Caruso, Cellectar’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement.

Carrie Thome, director of investments at WARF, says in an e-mail to Xconomy that the patent has not yet been issued and is currently “in prosecution.” That term refers to the process of preparing and filing a patent application.

CLR 131 is one of multiple so-called radiotherapeutics in Cellectar’s pipeline of drug candidates. Radiotherapeutics are made up of a cancer-killing isotope, along with a targeting molecule designed to shepherd the isotope to the cancer cells and spare healthy cells.

The drug candidate is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial. Cellectar said late last month that it had completed the third patient cohort of the study, and initiated the fourth and final cohort. The company subsequently shared data from the first three cohorts of the drug’s Phase 1 clinical trial.

Cellectar has said previously that it plans to kick off a Phase 2 clinical trial of the drug by the end of this month. That study will be supported in part by a $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Last fall, the NCI awarded another grant, of $12 million, to UW-Madison for research on head and neck cancer. Those efforts will include studying CLR 131 in combination with external beam radiation, Caruso says.

Cellectar has maintained a close relationship with UW-Madison over the years, Caruso says. (Jamey Weichert, a radiology professor at the university, co-founded Cellectar in 2002; he left the company last summer.)

Caruso says UW-Madison has been “very supportive” of Cellectar, and calls the school a “great research institution.” Thome says her organization is “pleased to further strengthen [WARF’s] relationship with Cellectar.”

Cellectar is scheduled to report financial results from the fourth quarter and 2016 on March 15.