Array BioPharma Spins Off Heart Drug R&D Into New Subsidiary Yarra Therapeutics
By Mark Terry
Array BioPharma has spun out some of its intellectual property and equipment into a new company, Yarra Therapeutics. Note that Yarra is Array spelled backwards.
In a filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Array indicated that its oral compound, Array 797, in development for “lamin A/C-related dilated cardiomyopathy,” is the center of the new company. On Sept. 2, 2016, Array raised $10 million by issuing promissory notes bought by a fund linked to Red Mile Capital. Those notes came due in September. One of Array’s options was spinning off its 797 research, which it has decided to do. The promissory notes can be paid off with shares in the new subsidiary.
ARRY-797 is in Phase II clinical trials for a rare type of cardiomyopathy. The SEC filings don’t specify whether Yarra will focus on additional diseases.
Bryan Stuart was named the chief executive officer and president of Yarra. Most recently he was chief executive at Kastle Therapeutics. He was previously the chief business officer of Civitas Therapeutics, chief of Corporate Development for EKR Therapeutics, and vice president of Corporate Business Development and Strategy for Lundbeck.
It appears that what Array is trying to do is focus on oncology while Yarra focuses on rare diseases. This has the potential to create more value for shareholders, as well as increase the potential for a merger or acquisition.
Just prior to the SEC filing on Dec. 19, Array announced it had inked a collaboration deal with Pfizer for several cancer combination therapies. These include Array’s MEK inhibitor, binimetinib, Pfizer’s PARP inhibitor talazoparib, and avelumab. Under the terms of the deal, the two companies will collaborate on a Phase Ib clinical trial. A multi-arm trial will be launched to determine recommended doses of various regimens combining the drugs.
The initial focus will be on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and pancreatic cancer. Additional indications will be explored later. The trial is expected to launch by the third quarter of 2018. The trial will be sponsored and funded by Pfizer.
“Array is excited to announce this partnership with Pfizer, an established global leader in oncology therapeutics,” said Ron Squarer, Array’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “These novel approaches combining targeted therapy and immunotherapy hold great potential to help patients fighting cancer in different indications, with an initial main focus on lung and pancreatic cancer.”
Chris Boshoff, Pfizer’s senior vice president and head of Immuno-Oncology, Early Development and Translational Oncology, stated, “Preclinical data indicate that combining binimetinib with an immune checkpoint inhibitor and talazoparib could be a rational combination to test in the clinic. We are looking forward to initiating the clinical studies with Array BioPharma to explore anti-tumor activity across various novel combination strategies, including both doublet and triplet approaches.”
Array currently had nine studies related to seven Array-owned or partnered drugs. They include MEK162; LGX818; selumetinib, partnered with AstraZeneca; danoprevir, partnered with Roche; ipatasertib, partnered with Genentech, larotrectinib, partnered with Loxo Oncology; and tucatinib, partnered with Cascadian Therapeutics.