Pierre Fabre in $618m EGFR deal with Scorpion

French pharma-cosmetic company Pierre Fabre has acquired the rights from Scorpion Therapeutics for two epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors in Europe and China.

Pierre Fabre will pay $65 million upfront and up to $553 million in milestones, plus royalties for the two candidates, described by Boston, Massachusetts-based Scorpion as highly selective mutant EGFR inhibitors aimed at treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Scorpion will retain commercialization rights to STX-721 and STX-241 in the US, Canada, and Japan, while Pierre Fabre will own the rights for all other territories.

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Scorpion will lead clinical development of STX-721, and Pierre Fabre will lead clinical development of STX-241.

EGFR mutations are the most frequent drivers of NSCLC, occurring in 14-38% of tumors. Scorpion’s highly selective mutant EGFR inhibitors are designed to address these mutations: STX-721 targets EGFR Exon 20 insertion mutants, and STX-241 targets Exon 19 or 21 mutations with the co-occurring C797S mutation, a known resistance mechanism to 3rd generation EGFR inhibitors.

Together, Scorpion’s next-generation EGFR inhibitors may have the potential to address over 90% of activating mutations in EGFR-mutant NSCLC, with the potential to improve clinical outcomes for thousands of patients globally.

For NSCLC driven by EGFR Exon 20 insertion mutations, toxicities associated with inhibiting wild-type EGFR in healthy tissues, such as the skin and gastrointestinal tract, often occur during treatment. STX-721 and STX-241 have been designed to maximize selectivity for the mutant form of the enzyme and to avoid inhibiting wild-type EGFR in healthy tissues. Scorpion believes the mechanism will minimize the toxicities.

“Our mission is to develop the next generation of transformational therapies and to deliver them to patients worldwide,” said Axel Hoos, CEO of Scorpion. “Pierre Fabre is the ideal partner to accelerate this vision; a global pharmaceutical company with a robust clinical and commercial footprint in Europe and Asia, and a track record of successfully partnering with biotechnology companies to develop and provide access to innovative cancer medicines. This partnership will expand the reach of our EGFR targeting programs, allowing us to help patients who urgently need these treatments, including in markets such as China, where nearly 50% percent of all cases of NSCLC are expected to be EGFR-mutant by 2030.”

STX-241 is a fourth-gen, orally delivered, central nervous system-penetrant small molecule designed with potentially best-in-class selectivity to target resistance mutations at C797S. Scorpion estimates that up to 3,000 patients per year in the US, or up to 12.5% of NSCLC patients with Exon 19 or 21 mutations, develop resistance mutations at C797S. Scorpion expects to submit an IND to the US FDA for STX-241 in the first half of 2024.

Pierre Fabre has four decades of experience in oncology innovation, spending about 80% of its R&D budget on oncology in 2022. Its current commercial portfolio in oncology is aimed at colorectal, breast and lung cancers, melanoma, hematology, and pre-cancerous skin conditions like actinic keratosis. In 2022, Pierre Fabre posted €2.7 billion ($3 billion) in revenues, 69% of which came from international sales in 120 countries. The company is 86%-owned by the Pierre Fabre Foundation, a government-recognized public-interest foundation, and secondarily by its own employees through an international employee stock ownership plan.

A version of this article first appeared in ChinaBio Today on April 5, 2023