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Curis snags $30M loan, grabs early-stage cancer drug from Genentech

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Close to a year after Roche and its biotech partner Curis ($CRIS) gained FDA approval for the skin cancer drug Erivedge (vismodegib), the Lexington, MA-based company has pledged a portion of its revenue stream from that drug in exchange for a $30 million loan to fund new deals and drug development work. And Curis immediately spent a big chunk of that to in-license an experimental cancer therapy from its colleagues at Genentech, flipping the usual order of dealmaking as the little biotech paid the giant Roche subsidiary a small upfront to gain development rights.

Curis has snagged Genentech's GDC-0917, paying $9.5 million up front and promising to pay milestones based on the first sales of an approved product. GDC-0917 is designed to spur cancer cell death by blocking proteins that hit the brakes on apoptosis. The drug recently wrapped an early-stage trial, leaving Curis to manage the midstage work as it looks to squire another drug through the approval process.

"The results of the Phase I study with GDC-0917 have been encouraging," said Dr. Anthony Tolcher, a principal investigator for the therapy. "We believe that IAP inhibition could prove to be an important approach in cancer therapy and we look forward to working with Curis in upcoming clinical studies of this exciting molecule." 

Cowen's Simos Simeonidis and Yatin Suneja have pegged peak potential sales of Erivedge at $533 million in 2022, worth $43 million in royalties. And if all goes right with the drug launch, Curis says it can pay off the loan in just four years.

"In addition, any milestone payments that we receive from Genentech (for Erivedge) are excluded from this transaction and therefore would provide Curis with additional capital if achieved. For example, we have the right to receive milestone payments for regulatory approvals of Erivedge in Europe and Australia, which we anticipate could occur in the first half of 2013," said Mike Gray, Curis' CFO.

- here's the press release on the in-licensing deal
- read the release on the $30M loan

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