NantPharma— a drug developer founded by Abraxis BioScience founder Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D., and part of his NantWorks umbrella of 10 companies—said it has entered into an exclusive license agreement for a second Amgen cancer compound, the Phase II cancer compound AMG 337. The value of the collaboration was not disclosed.

Under the agreement, NantPharma said, it acquired exclusive rights to develop and commercialize AMG 337 worldwide, except in Japan, Russia and other unspecified Central Asian countries. AMG 337 is under development for gastric and esophageal cancers.

AMG 337 is a small molecule inhibitor of the cell surface enzyme c-Met, a potential target for cancer therapy. Besides a driver of cancer, c-Met expression is also thought to be a leading resistance factor to targeted therapies such as the EGFR inhibitor gefitinib and to chemotherapies.

In results presented at the 2015 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, held January 15-17, AMG 337 showed promising responses in eight of 13 patients with MET-amplified gastric, esophageal, or gastroesophageal junction tumors—a dramatic response to a single agent, Eunice Kwak, MD, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital reported, according to a summary posted in March on the website of The ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) Post.

“We believe our tumor molecular profiling capability is uniquely positioned to fulfill the promise of AMG 337 as a drug that targets c-Met and treats patients whose cancer expresses a responsive molecular profile,” Dr. Soon-Shiong said in a statement.

The deal is the second between the companies. In January, NantWorks inked an exclusive licensing agreement of undisclosed value with Amgen to develop and commercialize its immunotherapeutic antibody ganitumab (AMG 479).

Ganitumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody that targets Type 1 insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-1R), which according to NantPharma is also a promising target for cancer therapy. In 2012, Amgen terminated a Phase III trial of ganitumab after concluding from an interim analysis of results from the GAMMA (Gemcitabine and AMG 479 in Metastatic Adenocarcinoma of the Pancreas) study that adding ganitumab to gemcitabine was unlikely to demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in the primary endpoint of overall survival compared to gemcitabine alone.

As with ganitumab, NantPharma said, patients entering clinical trials conducted by the company will be identified after a comprehensive “omic” analysis from DNA, RNA and protein, and treated based on the resulting molecular profile to maximize clinical outcome and minimize side effects.

“We are pleased to once again collaborate with NantWorks,” Sean E. Harper, M.D., evp of research and development at Amgen, said in a statement. “We believe that NantWorks and its NantOmics proprietary suite of genomic and proteomic capabilities will have the potential to create new therapeutic options for patients whose cancer is driven by the c-Met oncogene.”

In May, NantPharma acquired another cancer compound, Cynviloq™ (paclitaxel nanoparticle polymeric micelle), from Sorrento Therapeutics for up to $1.3 billion.

In addition to NantPharma, the NantWorks umbrella organization includes NantHealth, NantOmics, NantBioScience, NantCell, NantKwest, NantMobile, NantStudio, NantCapital and NantCloud.

“Through its ecosystem of companies at NantWorks including NantHealth and NantOmics, we believe we are uniquely positioned to address this issue of identifying these difficult subsets of patients and can drive the rapid clinical development of important targeted compounds such as AMG 337 and ganitumab,” Dr. Soon-Shiong added.

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