Threshold Pharmaceuticals Inc. has long been focused on diseases that are characterized by hypoxic tissue, such as cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia, but its first efforts based on hypoxic cell reliance on glucose metabolism didn't work out. The company's decision in 2007 to work instead on hypoxia-activated prodrugs has now paid off.

Last week, Threshold's TH-302 met the primary endpoint of PFS in a Phase IIb trial to treat pancreatic cancer, triggering a $20 million milestone on top of $25 million it received up front under a two-week-old deal with Merck KGaA to co-develop and commercialize the compound.