ArQule Secures Development Partner | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: November 11, 2008

ArQule Secures Development Partner

Daiichi licenses ArQule's lead cancer compound
Department: Science & Technology
Credit: ArQule
Credit: ArQule

ArQule, the Woburn, Mass.-based biotech company, has sealed two deals with Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo that will provide an influx of cash to help drive the development of its drug pipeline.

In the first agreement, Daiichi will pay $60 million up front, as well as undisclosed milestone and royalty payments, for access to ArQule's ARQ197, a small molecule that blocks a protein known as Met. The companies will share development costs for Phase II and III trials of ARQ197, and ArQule has the option to comarket the drug in the U.S. The agreement covers the world except Japan and three other Asian countries where Kyowa Hakko Kirin previously acquired development rights.

The ubiquity of Met has made it a hot target for drug developers; some 10 to 15% of solid tumors carry a mutation that causes Met to be overexpressed (C&EN, Aug. 20, 2007, page 15). The protein plays many roles in cancer, but perhaps the most intriguing is its ability to help cells develop resistance to drugs targeting tyrosine-kinase receptors, including lung cancer treatments such as AstraZeneca's Iressa and Genentech's Tarceva.

ArQule says its drug differs from other Met inhibitors in development because it does not compete with the energy-transfer nucleotide adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) in binding to the active site on the protein.

Under a separate pact, Daiichi will fork over another $15 million, as well as research funding, to use ArQule's kinase inhibitor discovery platform to find new anticancer drugs. The firms have launched a research collaboration that has already selected two kinase targets. Daiichi will have the option to license any compounds developed against those targets.

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