Moving on from Novartis, Array inks a $455M oncology deal with Pierre Fabre

Array CEO Ron Squarer

Array BioPharma ($ARRY), hunting for partners after Novartis ($NVS) walked away from a pair of cancer projects, has linked up with Pierre Fabre to co-develop the treatments in an agreement worth up to $455 million.

Under the deal, Pierre Fabre is paying Array $30 million up front for the rights to binimetinib and encorafenib in select countries, promising its partner as much as $425 million more tied to development and sales milestones. Array is hanging onto commercial rights in the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea and Israel, handing over the rest of the world to Pierre Fabre.

Ex-partner Novartis helped Array shuttle both treatments into Phase III trials in melanoma and ovarian cancer but backed out after picking up some similar therapies in its roughly $16 billion asset swap with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) last year. Under the terms of the breakup, Novartis remained on the hook for R&D support, allowing Array to scout for a new patron while limiting its development costs.

Now, with Pierre Fabre in tow, Array is expecting Phase III melanoma data on binimetinib by year's end with plans to file the drug for global approvals in the first half of 2016. Also in progress are a late-stage trial pitting binimetinib against ovarian cancer and a Phase III combo study testing whether pairing binimetinib and encorafenib can make a difference in a type of skin cancer.

Moving forward, the two companies plan to split development costs 60-40 with Array paying the lion's share, noting that the ongoing trials will be "substantially" funded by Novartis through the prior agreement.

"In Pierre Fabre we selected a partner with a European and emerging-market focus in oncology to develop and commercialize binimetinib and encorafenib in these geographies," Array CEO Ron Squarer said in a statement.

- read the statement