MONTREAL—Caprion Pharmaceuticals, a proteomics-based drug discovery company, in early November announced a collaboration agreement with AstraSeneca focused on the discovery of novel targets for prostrate cancer. The intention of the collaboration is to push forward the development of innovative therapies, which in turn could bolster the development pipelines of both companies.
The deal with Astra is the second project Carprion has arranged with the company. In work completed earlier this year, Caprion provided protein expression profiling in pain. "While we didn't disclose the exact nature of that work, I think it is fair to say that they were pleased with the work we did and gave us, in particular, and proteomics, in general, a higher profile within Astra," says Lloyd M. Segal, Caprion's president and CEO.
Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will evaluate cancer drug targets discovered by Caprion and will obtain exclusive, worldwide rights to develop and commercialize therapeutic applications for selected targets. Carpion, in turn will retain rights to all other targets for further development efforts either internally or with additional partners.
Specific financial terms were not announced, but the agreement is fairly standard for the industry. Caprion received an up-front payment and license fees with additional payments contingent on achievement of specific milestones by AstraZeneca. Using a similar antigen target business arrangement as comparison—Caprion's late 2002 deal with Biogen IDEC--it is reasonable to expect that Caprion's dollar take in its latest arrangement tops $10 million.
While officials from AstraZeneca could not be reached for comment, Les Hughes, Ph.D., vice president and global head of cancer research for AstraZeneca, says his company was attracted to Caprion based on its past performance.
"Caprion's capabilities and track record for identifying new targets in cancer is compelling," Hughes says in a press release announcing the deal. "Combined with AstraZeneca's strong legacy of discovering and developing important new therapies for cancer, Caprion's novel science will form an important part of our oncology efforts."
For Segal, the latest deal with big pharma is simply further validation that Caprion's antibody discovery program focused on cell surface tumor antigen targets continues to be attractive to companies looking to develop cancer therapeutics. It already has similar partnerships with Abbot and ICOS focused on lung cancer and a program with Biogen IDEC focused on colon cancer.
Further, Segal believes that Caprion fills a role in the oncology relationship AstraZeneca has with antibody specialist Abgenix which dates back to 2003. "It's a phenomenal relationship that Astra has with Abgenix where Abgenix will develop antibodies for them and Astra's role is to supply the novel targets," S egal notes. "Astra had a number of targets from its own internal research and other sources. But they were looking for novel targets to exploit as part of the broader Abgenix relationship."
The collaboration also helps advance the company's earliest stage development program in prostate cancer. Internally, Caprion's Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome drugs, which help prevent complications arising from e. coli is entering Phase II clinical trials; while it's colon cancer and non-small cell lung cancer programs are in early and late validation stages with pharma partners Biogen IDEC and Abbott.