Cephalon is buying cancer drugs firm Gemin X Pharmaceuticals for $225 million in cash. Shareholders in the acquired firm could receive another $300 million in cash payments dependent on future regulatory and sales milestones.
“Gemin X and our investors have been very excited by the promise and potential of our obatoclax program in patients with extensive stage small cell lung cancer, a condition for which there has been no change in the standard of care for 25 years,” notes Peter R. Dolan, chairman and CEO at Gemin X. “This acquisition not only returns value to Gemin X’s shareholders, but most importantly it enables the rapid and efficient advancement of an innovative program in an indication where cancer patients desperately need safe and effective treatments.”
Gemin X is developing cancer therapeutics designed to reinitiate programmed cell death, including apoptotic and autophagic cell death, or inhibit metabolism in cancerous cells. Lead Phase II-stage candidate obatoclax (GX15-070) is an in-house developed pan-Bcl-2 inhibitor that is active against all Bcl-2 proteins, including the dominant Mcl-1 protein, the firm explains. The intravenously infused drug is designed to trigger cancer cell apoptosis, and has also been shown to induce cancer cell autophagy.
Clinical activity has been observed following administration of obatoclax either as monotherapy or in combination with standard anticancer regimens across a range of cancer indications, including combination therapy with bortezomib (Velcade®) in patients with relapsed mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Data from a Phase II study evaluating obatoclax in combination with carboplatin and etoposide as first-line treatment of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) have been submitted for presentation at forthcoming scientific meetings. Phase I obatoclax combination studies in multiple myeloma, NHL, and CLL are also in progress. Gemin X is separately working to develop oral and liposomal formulations of the compound.
Gemin X’ second clinical-stage candidate GMX1777 is a small molecule inhibitor of NAD+ synthesis. The firm says studies in preclinical models have confirmed the drug is active against a broad range of hematological cancers and solid tumor. Phase I studies have resulted in pharmacodynamic evidence of target inhibition, and also shown that GMX1777 can be used in combination with niacin to broaden the therapeutic window, Gemin X claims. Phase II clinical trials in melanoma and glioblastoma (with niacin protection) are planned.
The firm’s preclinical telomere capping program is investigating how the disruption of capped telomere structures in cancer cells can lead to the activation of apoptosis.