Onyx Pockets $59M Upfront From Japanese Partner, to Market Myeloma Drugs

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Onyx Pharmaceuticals has found a new partner to help sell its lead drug candidate for multiple myeloma in Japan, less than two months after it unveiled some promising clinical trial results.

The Emeryville, CA-based developer of cancer drugs (NASDAQ: ONXX) is announcing today that it has struck a new partnership with Japan-based Ono Pharmaceutical, in which Onyx will get about $59 million in upfront cash and potentially another $280 million in development and milestone payments based on today’s currency exchange rates. In return, Ono will get exclusive rights to develop and commercialize two Onyx drugs for cancer patients in Japan. The deal includes Onyx’s lead drug candidate, carfilzomib for multiple myeloma, as well as another drug at an earlier stage of development for the same condition, called ONX 0912.

The deal comes a little more than six weeks after Onyx released results from a mid-stage clinical trial that said carfilzomib was able to at least partially shrink tumors in one-fourth of patients with multiple myeloma and keep them in check for a median time of seven months—even when patients were so sick they had essentially run out of other options. Onyx had told investors it would seek a partner in Asia to help commercialize the drug there, but it has retained full ownership rights in the U.S. and Europe. The company is now in the midst of preparing a new drug application to the FDA, which it plans to turn in by year’s end.

“This is a Japan-only deal, and it’s a very valuable one,” says Onyx CEO Tony Coles. He noted that the latest round of clinical trial results strengthened his company’s bargaining position. “The results reinforced [Ono’s] commitment to the compound,” he says.

Onyx, as I noted in a story back in July, has been seeking for some time to diversify itself beyond its current position as a one-drug company driven by sorafenib (Nexavar). That drug, approved by the FDA for kidney and liver cancers, generated $843 million in sales last year for Onyx and its partner, Bayer. But Onyx sought to expand its horizons, specifically through last year’s the acquisition South San Francisco-based Proteolix for $535 million. That deal gave Onyx full worldwide ownership of carfilzomib, an intravenously delivered therapy for multiple myeloma.

What few people noticed at the time was that Onyx also acquired an oral pill … Next Page »

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