Champions Biotechnology, Cephalon initiate technology collaboration
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


BALTIMOREóChampions Biotechnology, Inc. and Cephalon, Inc. have entered into a technology collaboration agreement based on two of Cephalon's proprietary chemical compounds: CEP-32496, an inhibitor of mutant B-Raf, and CEP-37440, a selective dual ALK-FAK inhibitor. Champions will test these compounds in low passage Tumorgraft studies to gauge the activity or response in potential clinical indications, and Cephalon will use the results of the studies to inform the compounds' clinical development paths.  
Per the agreement, Champions will receive $1.39 million from Cephalon by April 15 of this year as an initiation fee. Champions also stands to receive additional payments upon the achievement of certain milestones, and potential milestone payments will total $27 million. Cephalon will also pay royalties to Champions on any commercialized products that are developed as a result of the agreement. The collaboration follows right on the heel's of Cephalon's recent purchase of Gemin X, and obviously coincides nicely with its pipeline focus on oncology research.
"Our collaboration with Champions Biotechnology significantly compliments our oncology discovery capabilities by providing wider access to more clinically relevant and predictive pre-clinical oncology models," says Dr. Jeffry Vaught, Cephalon's executive vice president for R&D.
Champions asserts that their Tumorgraft service has the potential to "accelerate and reduce the risk of oncology drug development." Tumorgrafts are the result of human tumors implanted into immune deficient mice and then propagated in a manner that maintains the human tumor's characteristics. The company feels that the Tumorgrafts are a close reflection of human cancer biology, and their website goes on to add that "studies using Champions Tumorgrafts have been shown to predict how experimental drugs perform in clinical settings with results correlating directly with actual clinical results and positive outcomes in patients."
"We are very excited to be partnering with an innovative company like Cephalon that can utilize our technology to improve the process of oncology drug development," says Guy Malchi, Champions' head of corporate development.
According to the company, Champions' Tumorgrafts offer the ability to test cancer drugs on tumor cells that are near replicas of the ones found in the patient's body, allowing them to determine the drugs' efficacy and also to determine any sensitivity and likely effects of the drug on a patient's biology. It is also possible to test singular and combination drug therapy on the Tumorgrafts. Champions' website notes that its Translational Oncology Services (TOS) enable early identification of an agent's potential, biomarker discovery and validation, enhanced agent valuations at an earlier stage and a focused, accelerated and higher-probability development path and market launch, services which Cephalon hopes will provide them with information and guidance about their compounds.  
"Champions' technology platform will enable us to more effectively select the subsets of specific human cancers most likely to respond to our novel targeted therapeutic agents and identify the underlying cancer genotypes associated with drug sensitivity and resistance to chemotherapeutics," says Vaught.
Malchi notes that the agreement is Champions' biggest TOS contract to date, and says that it provides the company with " a great foundation for strong revenue growth for our next fiscal year."
"The potential for future milestone and royalty payments in these contracts will allow us to capture a portion of the financial upside our technology generates for our customers," Malchi adds. "We hope this is just the beginning of a productive and long-term partnership between our companies."
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