Sorrento Therapeutics said today it agreed to sell its drug candidate Cynviloq™ (paclitaxel nanoparticle polymeric micelle) for up to $1.3 billion to NantPharma, a drug developer founded by Abraxis BioScience founder Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D., and part of his NantWorks umbrella of nine companies.

Sorrento said it will receive more than $90 million in upfront cash, plus up to more than $600 million in payments tied to achieving regulatory milestones, and up to another $600 million based on reaching sales milestones. Sorrento will also receive additional transfer pricing payments from total unit sales.

Sorrento has the option to co-develop and/or co-market Cynviloq on terms to be negotiated.

NantPharm will obtain Cynviloq by acquiring Sorrento subsidiary Igdrasol, which has been developing Cynviloq in a bio-equivalence trial.

Cynviloq is a new nanoparticle formulation of paclitaxel free of donor derived human serum albumin (HSA). Cynviloq is now in a registration trial versus Celgene’s albumin-bound paclitaxel.

According to Sorrento, data to date suggests that Cynviloq may possess bioequivalent-like paclitaxel pharmacokinetic (PK) properties comparable to albumin-bound paclitaxel based on comparison of historical data from separate studies and PK simulation exercises. Both appear to have similar biophysical characteristics and share a common mechanism of action, Sorrento says, while both nanoparticles are highly unstable in plasma, disintegrating rapidly to release the cytotoxic drug, paclitaxel, into systemic circulation when given intravenously.

Last year, Sorrento launched the 100-patient TRIBECA bioequivalency (BE) crossover trial for Cynviloq, comparing the compound to  albumin-bound paclitaxel. “Data analysis suggests that Cynviloq meets the bioequivalence (BE) criteria for both total and unbound paclitaxel,” Sorrento said on May 4.

“We are extremely pleased with the recent Cynviloq TRIBECA™ study results and excited that Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his NantPharma team plan to expand Cynviloq into multiple cancer indications, as well as combine it with immunomodulatory antibodies and cell therapies from Sorrento's pipeline,” Henry Ji, Ph.D., Sorrento’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

“This transaction not only validates our prior Igdrasol acquisition, it also delivers significant financial return, while potentially offering much more in the long run to our shareholders,” Dr. Ji added.

The deal for Cynviloq comes after Sorrento and NantWorks formed a global joint venture, called NANTibody, to focus on immunotherapies for cancer back in December. Three months later in March, Sorrento entered into a global collaboration with another NantWorks company, NantCell, to discover and develop immunotherapies against tumor neo-epitopes.

In addition to Cynviloq, Sorrento has another clinical-stage drug candidate, resiniferatoxin, a non-opiate TRPV1 agonist currently in a Phase I/II study at the NIH as a treatment for terminal cancer patients suffering from intractable pain.

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