Pharma Focus Asia

MEI Pharma Announces Exclusive License Agreement with Presage Biosciences

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

MEI Pharma, Inc., an oncology company focused on the clinical development of novel therapies for cancer, today announced that it has entered into a license agreement with Presage Biosciences, Inc. for voruciclib, a clinical-stage, oral and selective cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor. Under the terms of the agreement, MEI Pharma receives exclusive worldwide rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize voruciclib. In exchange, Presage will receive near-term payments of $2.9 million and additional potential payments of up to $181 million upon the achievement of certain development, regulatory and commercial milestones. Presage will also receive mid-single-digit tiered royalties on the net sales of any product successfully developed.

"We are very excited by this opportunity to add voruciclib to our growing pipeline of clinical-stage oncology drug candidates," said Daniel P. Gold, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of MEI Pharma. "Voruciclib is a selective CDK inhibitor, a class of drugs that has recently demonstrated significant clinical and commercial value, and is differentiated by its potent inhibition of CDK9. This is an attractive asset that comes with an established clinical safety profile, along with compelling pre-clinical data showing suppression of MCL1, a known mechanism of resistance to BCL2 inhibitors, and synergy with the FDA-approved BCL2 inhibitor venetoclax. We believe this provides a clear and efficient clinical development path forward in combination with venetoclax. We appreciate that Presage put their trust in us to execute this plan and we are eager to get started."

Voruciclib (formerly P1446A) has been tested in more than 70 patients in multiple Phase 1 studies and has been associated with manageable side effects consistent with other drugs in its class, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In pre-clinical studies, voruciclib alone induces cell death in multiple patient-derived chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) samples1. In addition, voruciclib shows dose-dependent suppression of MCL1 at concentrations achievable with doses that appeared to be generally well tolerated in the Phase 1 studies. Studies have shown that MCL1 is an established resistance mechanism to the B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL2) inhibitor venetoclax (marketed as Venclexta™)2.

"Voruciclib is a promising drug candidate with the potential to overcome mechanisms of drug resistance and significantly improve patient outcomes," said David Johnson, Chairman of Presage. "The management team at MEI Pharma has a proven track record in oncology therapeutic development and we believe they have the clinical, regulatory and CMC expertise to maximize the value of this asset. This transaction also enables us to focus our attention on identifying and advancing additional drug candidates and combinations using our powerful CIVO™ intratumoral microdosing platform."

There are currently two CDK inhibitors approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, palbociclib (marketed as Ibrance®) and ribociclib (marketed as Kisqali®), both oral, selective CDK 4/6 inhibitors approved for the treatment of hormone receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative breast cancer in combination with hormonal therapy. A third, abemaciclib, was recently granted priority review by the FDA.

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