Arrowhead fills quiver with $250M Royalty deal for Amgen-partnered crown jewel

Some 48 hours after Amgen touted updated phase 2 data for its Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals-partnered heart drug, Royalty Pharma is swooping in to pick up royalty rights from the small biopharma to the tune of $250 million in upfront cash. 

In addition to the $250 million upfront payment to Arrowhead, Royalty also offered up $160 million in milestone payments, according to the company’s announcement Wednesday. Arrowhead’s existing $400 million biobuck pact with Amgen remains untouched. 

The fast-acting royalty hawk clearly saw potential in the updated phase 2 data for olpasiran presented earlier this week, acting quickly to pounce on the drug’s commercial value. The data presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 found a 95% reduction in lipoprotein-A (lpA) levels among patients with a history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease treated with 75 mg or more every three months. 

The deal is an unequivocal show of confidence for the market potential of olpasiran, which Amgen licensed from Arrowhead in 2016. The drug is designed to lower levels of apolipoprotein(a)—a key component of lipoprotein a—using small interfering RNA. As part of the deal, which included a licensing option to another undisclosed Arrowhead asset, Amgen handed over $56.5 million in upfront cash plus $617 million in biobucks. 

But Amgen and Arrowhead are still playing catch-up to Novartis, even if the data show a higher upside. The Swiss Big Pharma previously reported that its cardiovascular med, pelacarsen, showed a 72% reduction in Lp(a) levels among patients treated with 60 mg of the drug monthly. The reduction jumped to 80% when treated with 20 mg weekly. Pelacarsen, which Novartis licensed from Ionis in 2019, launched into a phase 3 trial in June. 

As for olpasiran, Amgen expects to recruit some 6,000 patients for a phase 3 trial, slated to launch in December. This time around, the primary objective is assessing olpasiran's ability to reduce coronary heart disease death, myocardial infarction or urgent coronary revascularization.