Global pharma company strikes deal with Melbourne research centre to develop new cancer drugs

16 Nov 2018

US-based pharmaceutical Pfizer Inc. has signed a two-year research partnership with Cancer Therapeutics Co-operative Research Centre (CTx) to develop two programs focusing on drug discovery.

Under the agreement, Pfizer will gain the rights to two novel pre-clinical cancer programs and CTx will receive a A$20 million upfront payment, up to a potential A$648 million in development and sales milestones, as well as royalties on product sales if the program reaches commercialisation.

The two pre-clinical programs target proteins known to play an important role in driving the growth of both solid and blood cancers.

‘We are constantly searching the globe for the best science that has the potential to change the way we can treat people with cancer in the future,’ says Dr. Robert Abraham, Senior Vice President and Group Head of Pfizer’s Oncology Research & Development Group, in a media release.

‘What we have found at CTx with these two chromatin modifying enzyme targets are very promising, differentiated programs that have the potential to provide new treatment options for patients.’

‘Funds that will help support the biomedical sector and that can be ploughed into new drug discovery programs; providing opportunities for the world-class team we have developed, and potentially leading to the delivery of new treatments for patients and economic benefits for the nation’, says Brett Carter, CEO of CTx.

According to the Australian Financial Review, it is one of the largest pre-clinical deals and lifts to more than US$1 billion the licensing deals struck by CTx over the past several years – including a major deal with MSD in 2016. It adds to a growing list of commercialisation successes for Australian pharmaceuticals and biotech companies.

Asked why CTX had achieved such great success, Dr Ian Street, Chief Scientific Officer at CTx, says that ‘Every new cancer drug starts with a great idea, however what Australia lacked was a good mechanism to convert these ideas into potential new medicines, and this is the niche that CTx has filled’.

Pfizer is a global biopharmaceutical company involved in the manufacture of vaccines and injectable biologic medicines. It employs more than 90,000 people worldwide.

CTx is an oncology focused small molecule drug discovery and early development biotechnology group, established in 2007 under the Australian government’s Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) initiative and awarded a further six years funding in July 2014. It is a collaborative partnership of leading research institutes, universities and commercial enterprises that translates Australia’s innovative research discoveries into new cancer drugs ready for clinical development. The CRC Programme supports industry-led collaborations between industry, researchers and the community across all sectors.