Pfizer doles out $15M to Cardiff to advance a challenger to Amgen's KRAS winner Lumakras

Pfizer sign
Pfizer will get first access to data from Cardiff's development programs as part of the deal. (Tracy Staton/Fierce)

Pfizer must have liked what it saw in data presented by Cardiff Oncology for a challenger in KRAS-mutated cancers. The Big Pharma is putting up a $15 million equity investment in the biotech to help bankroll development of the drug. 

Going forward, Pfizer's opinion will be prized by the San Diego biotech. With the equity investment, the New York pharma giant snags a first look at data from Cardiff's development of onvansertib.

The investment is part of Pfizer's Breakthrough Growth Initiative, which targets small- to mid-cap clinical-stage biotechs that are developing medicines for unmet medical needs. 

Pfizer's interest is significant given the oral treatment blankets Cardiff's entire pipeline. The Polo-like Kinase 1 inhibitor is in studies for KRAS-mutated metastatic colorectal cancer, metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer. Additional cancers will be targeted in future human trials. 

RELATED: Cardiff reveals early data on challenger to Amgen's KRAS crown

Investors took note. Shares rose about 13.5% to $5.93 apiece as of 9:52 a.m. ET. That's below the price Pfizer paid; the deal included a purchase of 2.4 million shares at $6.22 a pop.

Amgen already won the KRAS race when the FDA approved Lumakras in May, three months ahead of schedule. The drug is indicated for non-small cell lung cancer with a particular genetic mutation dubbed KRAS G12C. 

Mirati Therapeutics has a closer view of Amgen's heels as it nears an FDA filing for KRAS offering adagrasib. But the biotech recently saw a shake-up in the boardroom as the new CEO kicked out the chief medical and operating officers within six weeks of assuming his post. Mirati has also shifted to testing a low dose of adagrasib in combo with Keytruda in patients with the same cancer targeted by the Amgen drug.

However, Cardiff thinks it can carve out a lane in the KRAS cancer market. In early phase 1b/2 data revealed in September, onvansertib spurred an initial partial response in eight of 19 patients, or 42%, who got the middle dose and could be evaluated as of the cut-off date. Those phase 1b/2 data compare to an objective response rate of 5% to 13% across historical controls of patients receiving standard of care, the biotech said at the time. 

In conjunction with the investment, Pfizer's medicine team group lead for breast, colorectal and melanoma cancers, Adam Schayowitz, Ph.D., will join Cardiff's scientific advisory board. The group has yet to form.