After the furore around Pfizer and figitumumab on Friday, this morning brought entirely different kind of news with Onyx Pharma seeking to purchase a small biotech based in South San Francisco called Proteolix. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with previous notes on Proteolix's proteasome inhibitor, PR-171 or carfilzomib, which will potentially be a major competitor to Millennium's Velcade (bortezomib) if it is approved by the regulatory authorities.
Onyx already have sorafenib (Nexavar), on the market for several VEGF-mediated cancers such as renal cell cancer and hepatocellular (liver) carcinoma. They are under increasing competition from Pfizer's sunitinib (Sutent) in the same cancer types, as well as 4 other therapies recently approved in renal cancer, including Novartis's everolimus (Afinitor). It therefore makes sense to expand the product pipeline and replenish it with relatively late stage and interesting compounds.
There may be new phase II data in multiple myeloma and possibly even in non-Hodgins lymphoma (NHL) presented at the forthcoming American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in December and early data from the phase IIb trial is expected next year. Current therapies for myeloma are fairly effective, but are limited by neurotoxicity issues. It will be interesting to see if carfilzomib has an improved safety or efficacy profile based on the new data. The early data was very promising, but as with all R&D, larger scale clinical trials are always necessary to see what happens in a larger pool of patients and whether the responses are durable over time.
If the results hold up, then this could well be a good investment for Onyx, because it expands their pipeline with new agents and different tumour targets. It's also good to see the biotech companies getting smart about combining resources in terms of R&D and marketing muscle. Overall this deal looks a win-win for both parties.
Spreading the risk is no bad thing sometimes.