The Mundipharma network of independent associated companies has purchased worldwide development, commercialisation and production rights to CAP7.1 from CellAct for more than $250m.

CAP7.1 is a new pro-drug of anticancer agent etoposide that is metabolised into an active form by enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract particularly active in tumour cells.

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The new therapy has the capability to treat orphan disease designated biliary tract cancer, for which there are no second line treatment options.

CellAct chief executive officer Nalân Utku said: “The proven expertise of Mundipharma in medicines development and their commercial capabilities will enable the potential for CAP7.1 to help patients in this underserved disease area.”

Invented by teaching hospital Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany, CAP7.1 facilitates the focused release of the chemotherapeutic agent into tumour cells in higher doses while ensuring a good safety and tolerability profile.

The CellAct drug will be progressed through Phase III trials to be conducted by EDO, a company with a global network of clinical connections and expertise in developing cancer treatments.

"We are thrilled to be taking this promising treatment into the next phase of clinical trials."

The company will also be responsible for reformulating the treatment to allow manufacturing scale-up.

EDO chief executive officer Dr Thomas Mehrling said: “We are thrilled to be taking this promising treatment into the next phase of clinical trials.

“By working with a network of experienced clinical partners, EDO enables efficient drug development and we believe this will be of benefit to accelerate the development a potentially life-changing treatment in this area of great unmet patient need.”

Under the deal, both CellAct and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin will also receive sales-related income through tiered royalties and milestone payments.

During the Phase II trial of CAP7.1, the drug demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of patients with biliary tract cancer, with 56% of them meeting the primary objective of disease control, including tumour shrinkages.