Day One jets off with Sprint's VRK1 program for up to $316M

Cruising on the midstage clinical success of a brain cancer therapy, Day One Biopharmaceuticals is using the wind at its sails to bolster the back of its pipeline with a $3 million upfront deal for Sprint Bioscience's preclinical program.

The licensing pact, announced Wednesday, gives Day One exclusive rights to Sprint’s vaccinia-related kinase 1 (VRK1) project, a synthetic lethal target that’s associated with adult and pediatric cancers when overexpressed. In addition to receiving $3 million upfront, Sprint stands to gain an additional $313 million in milestone payments.

VRK1 makes up a group of proteins that helps repair damaged DNA, maintains the cell life cycle and works with lysosome metabolism. Sprint lists the target as having the potential to enhance the body’s immune response, serving as a potential one-two punch with other immuno-oncology medicines. 

The program is still in its infancy, however, with Day One co-founder and R&D chief Samuel Blackman, M.D., Ph.D., saying that the two companies will collaborate on the lead optimization process as the asset makes its way toward the clinic. Day One will reimburse Sprint for preclinical and development costs.

It’s a relatively low-risk partnership for Day One, which is looking to bulk up the back end of its pipeline. The company had no preclinical assets in its pipeline before this deal. The pediatric-cancer-focused biotech has been on a roll with lead asset tovorafenib, a type II PAN-RAF inhibitor currently in three trials. Day One initiated submission of an approval application to the FDA this year in pediatric patients with relapsed or progressive low-grade glioma and is set to complete the filing by October. 

Phase 2 data presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting this year found that tovorafenib elicited a 67% objective response though a median duration of response was not reached by the time of the Dec. 22, 2022, cutoff date. The median duration that patients were on treatment was just less than 11 months. Two days later, the company went on the fundraising prowl, closing a $172.5 million public offering June 12. Day One now has $442.9 million in cash on hand, enough to last into 2026.