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14 February, 2017 - 09:47 By Kate Sweeney

Vernalis wins first $3m in potential $220m bonanza

vernalis, kidney cancer, cambridge

Vernalis, which has its Cambridge UK operations at Granta Park, has clinched a $3 million milestone through an early payback from US business Corvus Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The deal with Corvus could earn Vernalis more than $220m over the long haul.

Corvus reports that in early studies technology from Vernalis shows promise for the treatment of kidney cancer and other diseases.

Vernalis licensed exclusive, worldwide rights to its adenosine receptor antagonist programme, CPI-444, for use in all therapeutic applications to Corvus in February 2015. Corvus is focused on developing novel immuno-oncology therapies.

CPI-444 is a patented small molecule that is now being evaluated in a Phase 1/1b trial in patients with advanced cancers. It is the lead molecule in Corvus’ pipeline and is being developed both as a single agent and in combination therapy.

The clinical trial utilises an adaptive design that allows expansion of disease-specific cohorts upon reaching certain pre-defined endpoints.

Corvus announced positive data from its Phase 1/1b study in January 2017, having achieved the clinical study protocol criteria for expansion in the cohort of patients with renal cell carcinoma with single agent CPI-444.

This study expansion triggers the first clinical milestone payment of $3m under the licensing agreement. Corvus says that if early findings are confirmed with longer follow up and a larger set of patients in this expanded study, a registration trial could start by the end of 2017.

Corvus is a big bio beast: It was launched through a $33.3m Series A fundraising in 2014 by the founder and former senior management at Pharmacyclics Inc and raised a further $74.8m Series B round in 2015 and $70.7m via a US IPO in March 2016.

The licensing deal has the potential for Vernalis to earn approximately $220m in milestones from all indications, subject to development, regulatory and sales milestones being achieved.

There are also mid-single digit royalties payable if a product reaches the market with the potential to reach low-double digit royalties in certain circumstances.

Vernalis CEO Ian Garland said: “We are thrilled with both the speed of progress of CPI-444 and the promising indication of single-agent activity in renal cell carcinoma patients as well other disease cohorts.

“Corvus has a wealth of clinical and commercial expertise and continues to demonstrate that it is an ideal partner for the programme. We will watch progress with a great deal of interest over the remainder of 2017.”

Kiss Communications

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