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Roche buys cancer company Ignyta for $1.7bn

Pursues same oncology target that encouraged Bayer's recent deal with Loxo

Roche

Roche has agreed a deal to buy US biotech Ignyta for $1.7bn, buying into cancer drug target that also encouraged Bayer to cut a $1.55bn deal with Loxo Oncology a few weeks ago.

The Swiss big pharma group is paying $27 per share in cash for Ignyta to claim ownership of entrectinib, a tropomyosin receptor kinases (TRK) inhibitor that shuts down a range of tumour-associated pathways including ROS1 and NTRK. The deal has been backed by the boards of both companies.

Entrectinib is currently being tested in the phase II STARTRK-2 trial involving patients with ROS1 fusions in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and NTRK fusions across a broad range of solid tumours, and analysts say it could be reach the market in the first half of 2019 and reach blockbuster sales at peak. It has breakthrough status from the FDA.

Interim data from that study - reported at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) conference in September - showed that entrectinib achieved a response rate of around 70% in patients with ROS1-positive NSCLC, with a median duration of response of 28.6 months and median progression free survival (PFS) of 29.6 months.

That high level of response was behind Bayer’s decision to stump up $1.55bn to license Loxo’s larotrectinib, which is also in phase II basket trials involving patients with solid tumours caused by TRK fusions and was filed using a rolling submission in the US earlier this week. Ignyta is highlighting the ability of its candidate to penetrate the central nervous system, and so tackle cancers that have spread to the brain.

Entrectinib isn’t the only drug in Ignyta’s pipeline however. At ESMO it also reported positive phase 1b data on RET/BRAF inhibitor RXDX-105, and it is also working on hedgehog/SMO pathway drug taladegib – in a phase 1b trial in ovarian cancer – as well as a TYR03, AXL and MER inhibitor called RXDX-106 which is in preclinical development.

For Roche, the deal ties in with its current strategy of adding bolt-on acquisitions that add promising candidates into its pipeline without breaking the bank. It has been bolstering its oncology pipeline in particular as three of its top-selling drugs – Avastin, Herceptin and Rituxan – are starting to face biosimilar competition.

Commenting on the transaction, Daniel O’Day, chief executive of Roche’s pharma division, said, “Cancer is a highly complex disease and many patients suffer from mutations which are difficult to detect and treat. The agreement with Ignyta builds on Roche’s strategy of fitting treatments to patients and will allow Roche to broaden and strengthen its oncology portfolio globally.”

Once the deal goes through, Ignyta will continue to run the pivotal trial of entrectinib from its current base in San Diego.

Article by
Phil Taylor

22nd December 2017

From: Sales

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