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Cancer Institute Spins-Off Company, Gains Licensing Deal

Red blood cells and platelets

Red blood cells held together with platelets, in blue, and fibrin, in yellow (NIH.gov)

14 October 2015. Ontario Institute for Cancer Research is spinning off a new enterprise to discover therapies for blood-related cancers, and will partner with Janssen Biotech Inc. to take those therapies to market. The licensing deal between Novera Therapeutics Inc., the OICR spin-off company in Toronto, and Janssen Biotech, a division of Johnson & Johnson, can earn Novera as much as $CDN 450 million ($US 346 million).

OICR, also in Toronto, is a not-for-profit organization supported by the Canadian government that conducts research on detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Most hematological, or blood-related, cancers begin in the bone marrow where normal blood cell development processes are interrupted by uncontrolled growth of cancerous blood cells that prevent blood from performing many key functions, such as fighting infections or stopping serious bleeding.

The organization formed Novera Therapeutics though its commercialization partner, Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust, to accelerate development of therapies discovered by OICR for hard to treat blood-related cancers, such as leukemia and multiple myeloma. Novera is expected to collaborate with Janssen on discovery, development, and commercialization of treatments for targets identified by OICR and its research partner University Health Network.

The deal gives Janssen an exclusive option to license, for all human applications worldwide, therapy candidates identified through the collaboration. Once exercising an option on a therapy, Janssen will have responsibility for its further preclinical development, clinical trials, and commercialization.

Novera, in return, gains an undisclosed initial fee from Janssen, as well as further payments tied to developmental and commercial milestones totaling as much as $CDN 450 million. Novera will also be eligible for royalty payments on sales of products generated by the collaboration.

The spin-off company and deal with Janssen are the second initiative in two months by OICR to accelerate and streamline its drug discovery and development processes. In September 2015, as reported in Science & Enterprise, OICR began a partnership with Structural Genomics Consortium to crowdsource additional targets for a small-molecule compound that already shows promise in blocking growth of breast cancer cells and some types of acute myeloid leukemia.

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Disclosure: the author owns shares in Johnson & Johnson.

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