AstraZeneca bets on nanotech with Bind Therapeutics deal
* Bind may get as much as $200 mln from UK drugmaker
* Third deal for U.S. firm after Amgen, Pfizer tie-ups
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON, April 22 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca is to pay privately held Bind Therapeutics as much as $200 million to develop a cancer medicine using the U.S. biotech company's nanotechnology drug delivery system.
The deal is another example of AstraZeneca's new chief executive Pascal Soriot turning to advanced science to develop new drugs, following an agreement last month to pay $240 million upfront to Moderna Therapeutics to access its know-how in manipulating RNA.
For Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Bind the tie-up is a further vindication of its novel approach to cancer treatment, which uses special nanoparticles to selectively target tumour cells rather than healthy tissue.
Earlier this year Bind struck similar deals with Amgen and Pfizer.
Under Monday's deal with AstraZeneca, Bind could get upfront and pre-approval milestone payments of $69 million, plus more than $130 million in regulatory, sales milestones and other payments. It will also be entitled to royalties on future sales, if the new injectable drug is eventually approved.
Susan Galbraith, head of the oncology innovative medicines unit at Britain's second-biggest drugmaker, said Bind's nanotechnology offered a way of delivering a potent medicine into tumours with fewer side effects.
AstraZeneca already knows its experimental molecule is active against cancer but it had to abandon earlier clinical trials because of difficulties in finding the right formulation and dose to produce the desired effect without undue toxicity.
"Using their technology we hope to enhance the relative tissue distribution, with increased uptake in tumours rather than in normal tissue," she said in an interview.
The drug, which could be used for unspecified blood cancers and solid tumours, is expected to enter into clinical trials in 12 to 18 months.
Bind's know-how builds on work by Robert Langer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Omid Farokhzad of Harvard Medical School. Its nanoparticles, called Accurins, are effectively programmable medicines that can be made to accumulate in tumours, where they will have the maximum impact.
The use of Accurins to deliver AstraZeneca's molecule will increase the complexity and cost of producing the new drug - but should improve its chances of success, Galbraith said.
"The biggest cost that we face in cancer drug development is the cost of failure. If you can do things that increase the chances of success, even if the cost of goods is higher, that still represents a reasonable return on investment," she said.
Other companies have also been working on new ways to target cancer drugs more effectively. Roche, for example, recently won U.S. approval for a new "armed antibody" called Kadlyca that seeks out specific cells associated with breast cancer.
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