Vertex eyes hep C future as it inks $1.5B pact with Alios

Now that Vertex's ($VRTX) lead blockbuster program for Incivek has crossed the finish line at the FDA, the biotech company is committing up to $775 million--$60 million upfront--to land global rights to two preclinical hepatitis C programs held by Alios BioPharma as it sets the stage for the development of future cocktail therapies.

The two programs--ALS-2200 and ALS-2158--both fit the bill for Vertex's plans to stay on top of the hepatitis C market in the years to come. In its release, Vertex described the drugs as "highly potent nucleotide analogues that appear in in vitro and non-clinical studies to have a high barrier to drug resistance and the potential to be dosed once-daily."

In addition to the $60 million upfront Vertex says it is on track to pay out another $35 million in near-term milestones for the Alios programs. Alios stands to garner up to $715 million in total milestones through approval and another $750 million in sales milestones for the treatments.

"For more than a decade, Vertex has been a leader in the development of new approaches for treating hepatitis C, and together we have the potential to create an all-oral, interferon-free, combination therapy that could improve the safety, efficacy and ease of administration for patients," said Alios CEO and founder Lawrence M. Blatt, the former CSO at InterMune. "We look forward to initiating clinical development later this year."

- here's the Vertex release