In another try at lung cancer niche, J&J nabs a potential Tagrisso rival for $50M-plus

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Weeks after bowing out of a billion-dollar deal with Aduro Biotech, J&J is back to the drawing board with another oncology licensing pact that, if fruitful, could pit them directly against AstraZeneca’s lung cancer star Tagrisso.

Korean drugmaker Yuhan is collecting $50 million upfront on the deal, which centers around lazertinib, a third-generation EGFR tyrosine-kinase inhibitor designed to target multiple mutations of the receptor. With worldwide rights to the asset — except for South Korea — J&J will take over development, manufacturing and commercialization while collaborating with Yuhan on clinical trials.

Yuhan could rake in another $1.205 billion on potential milestones, along with “tiered double-digit royalties.”

For an idea of the market opportunity that J&J has in mind, one needs look further than Tagrisso, the third-gen EGFR-TKI that AstraZeneca execs have talked up as a $3 billion drug considering its recent approval as a frontline treatment of EGFR-mutated non-small cell lung cancer.

In fact, when Yuhan and its partner Genosco presented “highly encouraging” Phase I/II data at ASCO this year, the principal investigator said the results “indicate that lazertinib compares favorably with results from a similar Phase 1/2 clinical trial of osimertinib,” or Tagrisso.

The results, Yuhan now says, points to lazertinib’s potential as a first-line therapy and “a potential best-in-class candidate as a combination regimen.”

J&J will now get to work in pursuit of that potential. Both monotherapy and combo trials are slated to begin in 2019.

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