Jazz inks Redx pact to secure 2 targeted cancer therapies 

Jazz Pharmaceuticals has struck a deal to source two targeted cancer therapies from Redx Pharma. Redx will pocket $10 million upfront, with more to follow, in return for developing candidates against two targets on the Ras/Raf/MAP kinase (MAPK) pathway.

Last year, Jazz inked a deal to buy a preclinical pan-RAF inhibitor from Redx for $3.5 million upfront and up to $203 million in milestones. The companies embarked on a collaboration in relation to the deal, enabling Jazz to leave Redx in charge of pre-IND activities on the pan-RAF prospect and get a closer look at its partner’s R&D capabilities. 

Jazz evidently liked what it saw. A little more than one year on from the pan-RAF deal, Jazz has paid $10 million upfront and committed to pay $10 million more in year two if research into new MAPK programs is still going at that point. Jazz is on the hook for $200 million in milestones per program.

The pathway targeted by Redx is involved in the regulation of cell division. If certain proteins in the pathway mutate, cancer cells can proliferate. That link between the pathway and cancer has made it a major focus of oncology R&D, leading to the approval of drugs such as Raf kinase inhibitor Nexavar and development of a host of other prospects.

Jazz has identified the pathway as a focal point for its oncology R&D activities. In a statement, Jazz R&D chief Robert Iannone said his team is “strategically targeting this cancer pathway with multiple experimental approaches.” 

If all goes to plan, Redx will support that effort by taking drugs against two targets up to an IND filing. Jazz will take over at that point and handle further development, manufacturing, regulatory activities and commercialization. Taking the drugs all the way to market would bolster a commercial oncology unit currently focused on Defitelio, Vyxeos and Zepzelca.

For Redx, the deal continues its gradual recovery from a tough few years. Redx faced a debt crisis in 2017, forcing it to offload its BTK inhibitor program to Loxo Oncology for $40 million. That drug, now known as LOXO-305, triggered responses in 77% of pretreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients in a phase 1/2 trial that delivered data last year. The administrators tasked with resolving Redx’s debt crisis sold the drug without securing any success-based milestones.

After exiting administration, Redx was rocked by adverse events in the first patient to receive its porcupine inhibitor RXC004. Redx came through that setback, putting it on track to wrap up a phase 1 assessment of the safety of RXC004 as a monotherapy this year and move into phase 2 in 2021. A second asset, lung and liver fibrosis prospect RXC007, is due to enter the clinic next year.  

Last month, Redx’s fibrotic disease capabilities landed it a deal with AstraZeneca, which agreed to pay up to $17 million in preclinical payments for the global rights to porcupine inhibitor RXC006.