Shares of Wetherby-based biotherapeutics company Avacta Group plc rose 3% on Thursday after it said it has entered into a license agreement with Point Biopharma Inc. to provide access to Avacta’s pre|CISION technology for the development of tumour-activated radiopharmaceuticals.
Under the terms of the agreement, Avacta will receive an upfront fee and development milestones for the first radiopharmaceutical prodrug totalling $9.5 million.
Avacta will also receive milestone payments for subsequent radiopharmaceutical prodrugs of up to $8 million each, a royalty on sales of FAP-activated radiopharmaceuticals by Point and a percentage of any sublicensing income received by Point.
Avacta Group shares have soared more than 700% in the past 12 months amid its work on Covid-19 tests to give it a current stock market value of roughly £350 million.
Avacta said: “The radiopharmaceutical market is expected to grow to $15 billion by 2025 and there is a substantial opportunity to grow much faster if safety and tolerability of these effective treatments can be improved.
“Point Biopharma is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company focused on developing radioligands as precision medicines for the treatment of cancer.
“Avacta’s proprietary pre|CISION chemistry can be used to modify a radioligand drug to form a tumour-activated prodrug.
“The prodrug form is inactive in circulation until it enters the tumour micro-environment where it is activated by an enzyme called fibroblast activation protein (or FAP) that is present in high abundance in most solid tumours but not in healthy tissue.
“Avacta’s pre|CISION technology therefore has the potential to improve the tolerability and achieve better clinical outcomes for patients compared with standard radiopharmaceuticals by targeting the radioligand treatment more specifically to cancer cells.
The agreement provides Point with an exclusive license to the pre|CISION technology for use in the first radiopharmaceutical prodrug the company intends to develop, and a non-exclusive license to the pre|CISION platform for the development of a broader pipeline of FAP-activated radiopharmaceuticals.”
Avacta CEO Alastair Smith said: “I am very pleased to have established this partnership with POINT that allows Avacta to exploit its pre|CISION platform in a therapeutic area outside of our in-house focus on chemotherapy prodrugs.
“The clinical and commercial rationale for our pre|CISION prodrug platform is to improve the safety and efficacy of many existing drugs, as well as generating a pipeline of new and novel cancer therapies.
“In oncology, we believe that this approach will result in better response rates for monotherapies, and a greater safety margin, to enable their use with a larger patient population and as part of combination therapies.
“The in-house development of AVA6000 Pro-doxorubicin, the first of our pre|CISION chemotherapy prodrugs for which we have recently submitted a CTA filing in the UK to begin clinical trials in 2021, has already generated significant interest and this is highlighted by the agreement with POINT announced today.
“The potential of the pre|CISION platform to significantly improve outcomes for patients treated with existing cancer therapies through improved safety, tolerability and dosing regimens is enormous.
“In addition, Avacta is combining the pre|CISION technology with the Affimer platform to create an entirely new class of proprietary TMAC drug conjugates.
“I look forward to updating the market on further progress on these and the diagnostic programmes across the group in the near term.”