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Catalan biotechnology firm Ability Pharmaceuticals has just closed an agreement with SciClone Pharmaceuticals (traded on the NASDAQ) granting the American company the exclusive license to develop and market its new anticancer agent in China and the neighboring areas where the American firm has sales activities: Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Through the agreement, Ability Pharma grants SciClone exclusive rights to develop, market, distribute and sell ABTL0812 in the aforementioned territories. SciClone has paid Ability Pharma for this license and to fund research the company is doing in Catalonia, but the significant amount will come in future payments for reaching development and sales milestones, potentially valued at more than €20 millions.

"This agreement represents the first one signed for China by the Catalan and Spanish Biotech Industry," says CEO and cofounder of Ability Pharma Carles Domènech. The Catalan company will continue to conduct clinical trials in Barcelona on drug ABTL0812, which is currently in the clinical development stage, and SciClone will do the same in the areas covered under this licensing agreement. The aim is to launch the product to market by late 2020.

“We are excited to partner with SciClone because the company has a strong presence on the Chinese market, which despite making up 5% of the global cancer drug market, is rapidly growing,” says Carles Domènech.

Under the terms of the agreement, Ability Pharma will have access to data generated by SciClone during clinical trials and vice versa, which will enrich both studies. In fact, the financial return the Catalan company will see from this collaboration will go to continuing to fund research on cancer drugs, which is their core activity.

“We want to reach agreements by territory. After China, we have our sights set on Japan, Russia and Latin America. These deals will do a good job of separating the main American and European markets, and we believe this way we can continue to fund our own development as a company while gaining as much value as possible before closing a global agreement," explains Domènech.


New inhibitor for lung and endometrial cancer

The drug the Catalan company has developed, ABTL0812, is an inhibitor of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway to treat solid tumors in a whole new way (considered first-in-class). Ability Pharma completed the first phase 1/1b clinical trial on the drug in 29 advanced cancer patients with solid tumors in June 2015, with positive results, good tolerance and safety. In fact, two of the patients that participated in the trial were stabilized for more than a year and some are still being treated.

Now Ability Pharma is about to start phase 2 at two world-renowned Catalan hospitals with many more patients. They designed a full clinical program for lung and endometrial cancer. At the same time, the company also has another drug candidate, ABTL0815, which is currently in preclinical development.

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