Carrick bags ex-Onyx cancer drug, plans pivotal trials

Carrick Therapeutics has licensed an ovarian cancer drug from BTG. The British biotech is working to get the former Onyx Therapeutics drug into pivotal trials on the strength of phase 1 data.

The drug, now known as CT900, is a thymidylate synthase inhibitor with a twist. Thymidylate synthase inhibitors, such as AstraZeneca’ Tomudex, that kill cancer by damaging DNA have been around for decades. What sets CT900 apart is its alpha folate receptor targeting mechanism. As the receptor is overexpressed in certain cancers, the targeting mechanism should mean CT900 zeros in on tumor cells.

The strongest clinical evidence in support of that hypothesis came from ten women whose tumors expressed high levels of the alpha folate receptor. Seven of these advanced cancer patients had partial responses. 

In light of the unmet needs of ovarian cancer patients—particularly once tumors become resistant to platinum-based first-line therapy—the researchers talked up the significance of the early-phase data. Carrick has seen enough potential in the results to acquire the worldwide rights to the drug. The financial details of the deal were not revealed.

Carrick, which emerged in 2016 with a $95 million series A round and has one drug in phase 1, plans to move CT900 into pivotal trials. The jump into late-phase development will get CT900 moving forward quickly again after a period in which its progress faltered.

Onyx paid BTG $13 million up front to license the drug in 2008 and handed over a further $7 million when it secured clearance to run a phase 1 study the following year. The pace of progress has slowed significantly since those back-to-back advances. A phase 1 trial sponsored by a British hospital got underway in 2013 and went on to yield the aforementioned clinical data.

In the years after the phase 1 got underway, Onyx was acquired by Amgen. Somewhere along the way, BTG quietly regained the rights to the drug. That led the U.K. trade department to try to help BTG find a partner for the asset at ASCO Annual Meeting last year.

Carrick revealed details of the licensing agreement alongside news that it has appointed George Golumbeski as chairman. Golumbeski played a big role in shaping Celgene’s aggressive business development strategy during his near-decade-long stint at the company.