Booming Pharmacyclics snags $50M paycheck as J&J pact drives blood cancer trials

Late last year Pharmacyclics turned heads around the industry when J&J ($JNJ) announced that it was paying $150 million upfront to license rights to a Btk inhibitor with blockbuster potential as a new blood cancers therapy. And J&J has kept the money flowing. Today Pharmacyclics ($PCYC) snagged its second $50 million milestone from its rich development pact, which totals $975 million.

Its big check from J&J was triggered by the enrollment of a fifth patient with treatment-resistant mantle cell lymphoma in one of a slate of studies. And Pharmacyclics, which has a global co-development deal with J&J, says the big payday offers fresh evidence of the urgency that surrounds the development of ibrutinib.  

"We formed this partnership with Janssen, with the intention to broadly expand and propel the clinical development of ibrutinib. The speed at which we have moved into important clinical trials in CLL and now MCL is a validation of this joint venture's ability to convert plans into actualities," said Pharmacyclics CEO Bob Duggan. "We are satisfied with the early progress this partnership is generating and we look forward to providing a material update in December, during the American Society of Hematology Meeting."

Pharmacyclics' shares were down slightly this morning, but the dip follows a boisterous surge in stock, which has skyrocketed more than 500% in the past year.

Just days after Pharmacyclics signed on with J&J, the biotech released stellar 10-month follow-up data on its Btk inhibitor from an early-stage program, showing that a total of 70% of the 61 chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients in the trial demonstrated a significant response, compared to 48% at the 6-month mark. Progression-free survival hit 90% at 6 months. All of the patients had failed at least two standard therapies for leukemia. The response rate in the high-dose group hit 44% and lead author Dr. John Byrd of Ohio State called the data "phenomenal."

- here's the release

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