Roche bags a preclinical next-gen prostate cancer program in $142M deal

Paul Rennie

Roche ($RHHBY) has stepped in to in-license the preclinical work of two Canadian investigators who have been focused on inhibiting all forms of the androgen receptor in an effort to find new drugs that can step in after prostate cancer patients become resistant to the first wave of drugs now on the market.

Last year Paul Rennie was in a group of investigators who won a $2.8 million award from the Department of Defense for their work on prostate cancer, which has seen new drugs from Medivation ($MDVN)--Xtandi--and J&J ($JNJ)--Zytiga--hit the market in recent years.

Rennie and Artem Cherkasov have been concentrating on the DNA binding domain of the androgen receptor, which turns on genes involved in the growth of cancer and is less prone to mutation. Roche paid an undisclosed upfront--typically relatively small in preclinical deals--while committing up to $141.7 million on milestones for a successful development program.

UBC arranged the deal, but the scientists will get half of the money that comes in. And the scientists say that their success in the field was made possible by new computer technology that could efficiently review the potential of tens of millions of molecules. And they came up with one that passed the test in various screening assays, making it a candidate as a once-a-day pill for patients.

"We're at a stage now that we need the right pharmaceutical partner to help to move this technology from a discovery into a finished product," said Rennie, a professor in the department of Urologic Sciences at the University of British Columbia and director of laboratory research at the Vancouver Prostate Centre.

Roche is far from alone in the search for next-gen therapies that can target castration-resistant prostate cancer. After selling Seragon and Aragon to Roche and J&J, Rich Heyman is now working on ramping up new work on ORIC, which is advancing a new drug that is focused on a new target for prostate cancer.

- here's the release