Pfenex has granted Jazz Pharmaceuticals worldwide rights to develop and commercialize multiple early-stage product candidates designed to treat blood cancers.

The deal, announced by the companies late yesterday, could generate up to $181 million-plus for Pfenex if an initial set of unspecified hematology products is developed.

For that set, Jazz has agreed to pay Pfenex upfront and option payments totaling $15 million, plus up to $166 million in payments tied to achieving development-, regulatory-, and sales-related milestones—including up to $41 million for nonsales-related milestones.

Pfenex may also be eligible to receive tiered royalties on worldwide sales of any of the initial hematology products resulting from the collaboration, the companies said.

According to a Pfenex regulatory filing, Jazz also agreed to be responsible for certain third-party costs incurred by Pfenex in connection with development of the initial products, as well as for certain internal expenses incurred by Pfenex  in connection with development of one of the initial products.

The companies’ agreement also includes an option for Jazz to negotiate an exclusive license with Pfenex to develop, manufacture, and commercialize globally an additional set of unspecified hematology products, the filing stated. That additional set includes PF690 (pegaspargase), a biosimilar candidate whose reference product is the Baxalta-marketed Oncaspar®. PF690 is among eight biosimilar candidates in Pfenex’s pipeline.

Hematology/oncology is one of Jazz’s areas of therapeutic focus, along with sleep disorders.

Pfenex agreed to be responsible for costs and expenses incurred in developing the other hematology products before Jazz exercises its development rights for those products, although Pfenex could agree to contribute a specified portion of the costs and expenses incurred should Jazz exercise its rights. Financial terms for development and commercialization of the additional products will be negotiated once Jazz exercises its rights.

“The collaboration with Pfenex, including access to its unique protein expression technology, demonstrates our emphasis on diversifying and strengthening our portfolio to provide improved therapeutic options for patients.” Karen Smith M.D., Ph.D, Jazz’ global head of R&D and CMO, said in a statement.

Pfenex’ protein production platform applies the company’s core technology, which is designed to facilitate rapid and reliable protein production for biosimilars. Pfenex Expression Technology combines expression components with a robotically enabled, high-throughput, parallel-strain screening technology to identify protein production strains capable of producing large amounts of soluble, active product.

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