GSK pumps $120M into partnership with Ideaya in oncology precision medicine play

One of the largest drugmakers in the U.K. is partnering with a U.S.-based biotech company focused on an emerging area of cancer therapy whereby drugs kill cancer cells by targeting multiple genes.
London-based GlaxoSmithKline said Tuesday that it would partner with South San Francisco, California-based Ideaya Biosciences on research into synthetic lethality, whereby a drug kills a cancer cell by knocking down two genes in combination, whereas the cell would survive if only one of those genes were targeted.
Under the deal, GSK is paying Ideaya $100 million upfront, along with making a $20 million equity purchase of the company’s stock and a potential $50 million option exercise fee for one of its programs. Ideaya would also be entitled to receive preclinical, clinical and sales milestones.
Shares of Ideaya were up more than 30% on the Nasdaq in late-morning trading Tuesday. Shares of GSK were up more than 1% on the London and New York stock exchanges.
The partnership involves three programs in particular from Ideaya that are expected to enter into clinical development in the next two to three years, including drugs with targets like MAT2A, pol theta and Werner helicase. The aforementioned $50 million fee would be for the MAT2A program, which Ideaya will lead through early clinical development, taking responsibility for all the costs before GSK options it. Ideaya will further receive half of U.S. profits and ex-U.S. royalties for the MAT2A and Werner helicase programs, while for the pol theta program, it will receive global royalties, with GSK covering research, development and commercialization costs.
“GSK is the ideal strategic partner for Ideaya, as this partnership enables compelling potential combinations and the opportunity to build the industry-leading synthetic lethality pipeline that targets molecularly defined populations in several major solid tumors, including potentially lung, prostate, breast, colorectal and ovarian cancer,” Ideaya CEO Yujiro Hata said in a statement.
Synthetic lethality is an emerging area of research in oncology precision medicine and one that has been the subject of significant investment in recent years. In January, San Diego-based Trovagene announced data from a Phase Ib/II study of its drug, onvasertib, combined with an antibody drug and chemotherapy, showing that it produced clinical responses in patients with second-line metastatic colorectal cancer. Patients in the study had mutations of the KRAS gene, which was shown to be significantly reduced. However, the drug targeted KRAS not directly, but by targeting another pathway, PLK1, given that tumors expressing KRAS mutations have a higher sensitivity to PLK1 inhibition than those without the mutations. Synthetic lethality is also observed in the approved drugs known as PARP inhibitors, which target PARP, but in doing so treat tumors with BRCA mutations.


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