SYDNEY, April 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Kazia Therapeutics Limited (ASX: KZA;NASDAQ: KZIA), an oncology-focused drug development company, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a worldwide exclusive licensing agreement and a master services agreement with Evotec SE (FRA: EVT), a leading European drug discovery and development company, for EVT801, a small-molecule, first-in-class oncology drug candidate. Kazia expects to launch a phase I clinical trial of EVT801 in CY2021.
Evotec has granted Kazia an exclusive global worldwide license to develop, manufacture, and commercialise EVT801 in all territories and indications.
Under the terms of the agreement, Kazia will pay an immediate upfront of €1 million (AU$ 1.6 million), contingent milestones of up to €308 million (AU$ 480 million) related to achievement of clinical, regulatory, and commercial outcomes over the lifetime of the drug, and a tiered single-digit royalty on net sales.
Evotec is a leading drug discovery and development company, headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, and listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
EVT801 is a small-molecule inhibitor of VEGFR3. Its primary activity is to inhibit lymphangiogenesis, the formation of new lymphatic vessels around a growing tumour. By doing so, EVT801 is expected to starve the tumour of vital nutrients and to reduce metastasis. EVT801 also has marked activity on the immune system within the tumour and may therefore enhance the activity of immuno-oncology therapies.
Kazia and Evotec have also entered into a master services agreement, under which the two companies will collaborate closely on the further development of EVT801.
EVT801 was originally discovered by Sanofi (NASDAQ: SNY), the largest pharmaceutical company in France and among the five largest in the world and was developed through a partnership between Sanofi and Evotec.
Kazia expects to launch a phase I clinical trial in CY2021. The initial exploratory indications for EVT801 include renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer), and soft tissue sarcoma.
Kazia CEO, Dr James Garner, commented, "We are delighted to add this tremendously exciting new compound to the Kazia pipeline. Evotec have done first-class work in the early development of EVT801, and the preclinical data package is exceptionally strong. We intend to fast track a phase I clinical trial of the drug, which we expect to commence in CY2021."
He added, "As we have built Kazia over the past five years, our strategy has been to assemble a portfolio of world-class development candidates through in-licensing. The EVT801 transaction is wholly consistent with that strategy. We have demonstrated, through the paxalisib program, our ability to add value to a development candidate, and we intend to similarly accelerate EVT801 via a rich and innovative development program."
Evotec CEO, Dr Werner Lanthaler, commented, "we are very pleased to partner with Kazia for this promising asset, for which we have high hopes. Our corporate strategy does not provide for Evotec to take EVT801 through clinical trials itself, so we have sought to identify a partner who can do justice to the drug's potential. We recognise Kazia's track record and look forward to working together to make EVT801 available to patients and clinicians."
EVT801 is a small molecule inhibitor of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR3). It is orally available, and so can be administered to patients by mouth.
For more than two decades, one of the most successful approaches in the treatment of cancer has been to target angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels. Drugs which inhibit angiogenesis, such as Avastin® (bevacizumab), starve the growing tumour of nutrients. However, inhibiting angiogenesis also results in hypoxia (low levels of oxygen) around the tumour, and this is thought to generate resistance to treatment. Almost all cancers treated with current anti-angiogenic drugs will eventually develop resistance.
An alternative approach, which may avoid this problem, is to target lymphangiogenesis, which is the formation of new lymphatic vessels. Doing so achieves many of the same objectives as targeting angiogenesis but may avoid the problem of resistance induced by hypoxia. Moreover, the lymphatic system is a common route by which tumours spread (metastasise) throughout the body, and so inhibiting lymphangiogenesis may help to limit the ability of the tumour to spread.
In recent years, several new drug candidates have attempted to inhibit lymphangiogenesis. For example, Nexavar® (sorafenib) inhibits several forms of VEGFR, as well as other targets, and is approved for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. Several drugs described as angiokinase inhibitors are in development, and some of these inhibit VEGFR3. However, each of these drugs has multiple targets, leading in many cases to significant side effects. The distinguishing feature of EVT801 is a high degree of specificity for VEGFR3, which should allow it to minimise toxicity.
In addition, EVT801 has shown powerful evidence in the laboratory of an ability to change the balance of immune cells within the tumour. Many tumours are resistant to the newest generation of immuno-oncology therapies because they do not contain the right immune cells for the drugs to act upon. It is hoped that administration of EVT801 may help to sensitise these tumours to immuno-oncology therapies such as Keytruda® (pembrolizumab) and Opdivo® (nivolumab) and thereby extend their use.
Kazia expects to explore all these potential uses of EVT801 during the clinical program. The initial focus will be on a phase I study, which is expected to be conducted at one or more leading hospitals in France and to commence in CY2021.
Master Services Agreement
In parallel with the license agreement, Kazia and Evotec have entered into a Master Services Agreement (MSA), under which they will collaborate on the further development of EVT801. Kazia intends to utilise Evotec's substantial capabilities and expertise in research, clinical trial management, biomarker development, and manufacturing, to expedite the development of EVT801.
Investor Conference Call
Kazia is pleased to invite investors to attend a conference call to further discuss the EVT801 in-licensing.
The call will be held on Tuesday 20 April 2021 at 8:00am, Sydney time (AET), which is 6pm on Monday 19 April in New York (ET) and 3pm on Monday 19 April in San Francisco (PT).
Participants will need to pre-register for the call via the following link:
Click the 'Register Now' button and follow the prompts to complete pre-registration. You will then receive a calendar invite with dial in numbers, a passcode and a PIN to dial into the conference call.
About Kazia Therapeutics Limited
Kazia Therapeutics Limited (NASDAQ: KZIA; ASX: KZA) is an oncology-focused drug development company, based in Sydney, Australia.
Our lead program is paxalisib, a brain-penetrant inhibitor of the PI3K / Akt / mTOR pathway, which is being developed to treat glioblastoma, the most common and most aggressive form of primary brain cancer in adults. Licensed from Genentech in late 2016, paxalisib commenced recruitment to GBM AGILE, a pivotal study in glioblastoma, in January 2021. Seven additional studies are active in other forms of brain cancer. Paxalisib was granted Orphan Drug Designation for glioblastoma by the US FDA in February 2018, and Fast Track Designation for glioblastoma by the US FDA in August 2020. In addition, paxalisib was granted Rare Pediatric Disease Designation and Orphan Designation by the US FDA for DIPG in August 2020.
Kazia is also developing EVT801, a small-molecule inhibitor of VEGFR3, which was licensed from Evotec SE in April 2021. Preclinical data has shown EVT801 to be active against a broad range of tumour types and has provided compelling evidence of synergy with immuno-onocology agents. A phase I study is expected to begin in CY2021.
Evotec is a drug discovery alliance and development partnership company focused on rapidly progressing innovative product approaches with leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academics, patient advocacy groups and venture capitalists.
We operate worldwide and our more than 3,500 employees provide the highest quality stand-alone and integrated drug discovery and development solutions. We cover all activities from target-to-clinic to meet the industry's need for innovation and efficiency in drug discovery and development (EVT Execute). The Company has established a unique position by assembling top-class scientific experts and integrating state-of-the-art technologies as well as substantial experience and expertise in key therapeutic areas including neuronal diseases, diabetes and complications of diabetes, pain and inflammation, oncology, infectious diseases, respiratory diseases, fibrosis, rare diseases and women's health.
On this basis, Evotec has built a broad and deep pipeline of more than 100 co-owned product opportunities at clinical, pre-clinical and discovery stages (EVT Innovate). Evotec has established multiple long-term alliances with partners including Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, CHDI, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi, Takeda, UCB and others. For additional information please go to www.evotec.com and follow us on Twitter @Evotec.