ThromboGenics spins out Roche-rejected cancer drug

ThromboGenics (EBR:THR) is trying to give the TB-403 cancer drug Roche ($RHHBY) walked away from in 2012 a new lease of life. The arrangement sees ThromboGenics teaming up with life science research institute VIB to create a new biotech focused on shepherding the drug through clinical development.

ThromboGenics' CEO Dr. Patrik De Haes

Roche licensed the drug--a humanized monoclonal antibody against placental growth factor--in 2008, only to decide four years later that it no longer fit into its plans. At the time, ThromboGenics was readying for a FDA advisory committee meeting for Jetrea, its Novartis ($NVS)-partnered symptomatic vitreomacular adhesion drug. ThromboGenics and its partner BioInvent (OMXS:BINV) have wrapped up some R&D work on TB-403 since then. But with the focus of ThromboGenics' slimmed-down R&D operation shifting to diabetic eye disease, TB-403 has failed to find a place in its in-house plans.

The solution dreamed up by Leuven, Belgium-based ThromboGenics is to farm out the project to a new biotech: Oncurious. ThromboGenics is a majority stakeholder in the startup, with VIB picking up a smaller stake. The first task for Oncurious is to work with BioInvent on a Phase I/IIa trial of TB-403 in patients with medulloblastoma, a rare form of pediatric brain cancer. Enrollment is expected to start later this year. BioInvent is chipping in half of the development costs in return for a 40% slice of any resulting revenues.

While the asset is the same one that Roche walked away from, BioInvent and Oncurious think their understanding of the indications it could treat has evolved in the intervening years. Back when Roche dropped TB-403, the partners were yet to focus in on a particular indication. That began to change in 2013 when researchers from VIB co-authored a paper in Cell that linked placental growth factor to the spread of medulloblastoma. Armed with that nugget of information, the partners have pinned their hopes on developing TB-403 in the indication.

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