AVEO, Centocor ink license agreement to develop, commercialize anti-RON antibodies
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—AVEO Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc. have entered into an exclusive license agreement for the worldwide development and commercialization of AVEO's internally discovered antibodies, which target the RON (Recepteur d'Origine Nantais) receptor.
"We are delighted to enter into this strategic alliance," said Elan Ezickson, executive vice president and chief business officer of AVEO, in a statement regarding the agreement.
AVEO will initially receive $15 million, half of which will be paid as an upfront payment from Centocor and the second half of which will be paid through the sale of newly issued shares of AVEO common stock to Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, an affiliate of Centocor. The second half of the payment falls under a separate equity private placement and stock purchase agreement. Under the terms of the license agreement, AVEO could potentially receive up to $540 million in milestone payments if certain development, regulatory and commercialization goals are achieved, and will also be entitiled to a tiered, double-digit royalty on net sales worldwide upon commercialization.
For their part, Centocor is responsible for handling all clinical development, manufacturing and commercialization activities and costs. Centocor will also provide funding for certain areas of AVEO's research, including translational research studies using its Human Response Platform to identify biomarkers for patients that would most likely benefit from being treated with RON-targeted antibodies.
"This license agreement highlights the broad potential of our unique monoclonal antibody R&D capabilities and further supports AVEO's strategy to maximize our proprietary cancer biology platform to build a sustainable cancer therapeutics company," said Ezickson.
RON, or MST1R, receptor tyrosine kinase is part of the c-MET RTK family, and over-expression of the kinase has been found in several solid tumor types, including breast, non-small cell lung, prostate, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), colorectal, ovarian, pancreatic and bladder cancers. The kinase is associated with disease progression as well as metastasis. The RON pathway is suspected to play a part in several aspects of cancer development, including regulation of tumor growth, survival and metastasis, as well as bone disruption.
In AVEO's proprietary in-vivo models, both wild-type RON and ROND160 have proven to drive tumor growth. Additionally, the company's anti-RON antibodies have demonstrated strong anti-tumor activity. Through use of its bioinformatics tools, AVEO has also generated a RON pathway gene index, which is capable of quantifying the level of TON pathway activation. This index has made it possible for AVEO to identify human tumor cell lines that display high RON-pathway activity, and the company has also been able to demonstrate that inhibiting RON function by use of anti-RON antibodies can potently inhibit tumor cell growth and survival.
Last November, at the EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium in Berlin, Germany, AVEO presented preclinical data from its anti-RON antibody program that demonstrated the inhibition of both RON and ROND160's function, in addition to a possible biomarker to identify tumors that are most likely to respond to anti-RON antibody treatment.
"We believe that the RON pathway is a promising novel target for combating cancer growth and progression," said Ezickson in a statement regarding the agreement.