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12:00 AM
 | 
May 09, 2005
 |  BioCentury  |  Product Development

Plucking from pharma

While most industry watchers are betting on which biotech products will be grabbed by big pharma, such deals can flow in the other direction, as well. In recent days, three private biotech companies have taken over compounds that big pharma found problematic. All three think they can find dosing regimens and indications to solve shortcomings that the big companies didn't want to deal with. Miikana Therapeutics Inc. is taking on a cancer compound from Roche, while Sunesis Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Elixir Pharmaceuticals Inc. are taking on cancer and metabolic compounds, respectively, from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

Changing the dose

For Miikana, which has been a preclinical company out trying to raise $20-$30 million in a series B round, the deal with Roche now gives the biotech a Phase II cancer compound to talk about.

Under last week's deal with Roche (SWX:ROCZ, Basel, Switzerland), Miikana received exclusive worldwide rights to MKC-1, an oral small molecule cell cycle inhibitor that has an undisclosed mechanism of action. The compound has completed Phase II trials as monotherapy in third-line metastatic breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Although ROCZ's Phase II results showed limited efficacy, Miikana believes the compound was dosed at subtherapeutic levels.

In the 35-patient breast cancer study, there were two partial responses, for a response rate of 5%. There also were two minor responses. In the NSCLC trial in 34 patients, there were one partial response and two minor responses.

The problem, said Miikana co-founder Gail Eckhardt, was that MKC-1 was dosed at only 95 mg/m2 in the Phase II studies. Following Phase I trials, the recommended Phase II dose - defined as the dose at which no more than 30% of patients had dose-limiting toxicities -...

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