Servier bags EU rights to colorectal cancer drug in $130M deal

Servier has continued its push into oncology and search beyond its walls for innovation by striking a $130 million (€115 million) deal with Taiho Pharmaceutical. The fee, which is made up of an upfront payment and near-term milestone, will give Servier the rights to Taiho's treatment for refractory metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).

Servier CEO Olivier Laureau

The deal concerns TAS-102, a treatment for mCRC that has already won approval in Japan and is under review in Europe and the U.S. A slice of the $130 million is tied to the approval of TAS-102 in Europe, an event which would also trigger the ramping up of commercialization efforts by Servier in the region. Paris, France-based Servier is on the hook for milestones payments based on regulatory and sales events, plus royalties, too. And it will work with Taiho on further global development, picking up half of the tab for the R&D bill and reaping the same share of any rewards.

Taiho already has data from a Phase III trial in 768 patients, 403 of whom were enrolled in Europe. Each patient had received at least two lines of chemotherapy. The treatment arm of the European wing of the trial achieved an overall survival of 6.8 months, compared to 4.9 months among patients who received placebo. More than two-thirds of patients in the treatment arm experienced adverse events of grade three or higher, meaning their experiences ranged from severe but not life threatening to death. Around half of the European placebo wing suffered similar adverse events.

The drug behind the effects is a combination of a trifluridine (FTD) and tipiracil hydrochloride (TPI), a thymidine phosphorylase inhibitor. Taiho designed the combination to achieve sustained inhibition of tumor growth--with TPI preventing degradation of the DNA disruptor FTD--and thinks it could prove to be effective against other chemotherapy-resistant forms of cancer. Servier thinks the drug, the existing data and longer-term potential are impressive enough to warrant getting out its checkbook, something it has done with increasing frequency in recent years.

"We began partnering with academic centres in oncology in the mid-1990s but now want to develop partnerships with biotech and pharmaceuticals companies more actively to accelerate our access to innovation. Partnerships increase our means--qualitatively and quantitatively," Servier Business Development Chief Pascal Touchon told The Financial Times. The strategy is illustrated clearly by a list of Servier's research and licensing collaborations. From 2004 to 2009, Servier lists six deals. Since 2010, it has struck 19 collaborations, a tripling in the rate of annual deal activity.

- read the release
- here's the FT's take
- and the Phase III data