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License to Pill: Biotech and pharma deals from July 11-July 24

Deal-making activity picked up pace for the two weeks ended July 24, with Roche Holding AG and GlaxoSmithKline PLC among those entering into licensing deals, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Collaborations during the two-week span covered treatments for a number of diseases including cancer, heart disease, hepatitis B and nervous system disorders.

Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant Roche signed the largest agreement by up-front payment with Blueprint Medicines Corp. for rights to jointly develop and commercialize cancer drug pralsetinib for treating RET-altered non-small cell lung cancer, medullary thyroid cancer and other types of thyroid cancer, as well as other solid tumors.

Roche will pay $675 million in cash up front for rights to the drug outside the U.S. — excluding China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Blueprint could receive up to $927 million in milestone payments and royalties in addition to a $100 million equity investment from the Swiss drugmaker.

Roche also signed another pact with Boston-based private biotechnology company Jnana Therapeutics Inc. for the license to discover small molecule drugs for treating immune-mediated and neurological diseases.

The biotech company will get a cash payment of $40 million up front and is eligible to receive over $1 billion from the Swiss company in research funding, milestone payments and royalties.

Another notable agreement during the two-week period was between Glaxo SmithKline and Germany's CureVac AG to collaborate on up to five mRNA-based vaccines and monoclonal antibodies for infectious diseases.

Private biotechnology company CureVac will receive £104 million cash up front in addition to a £130 million investment by the British pharmaceutical giant and a one-time reimbursable payment of £26 million for manufacturing capacity reservation.

CureVac also filed for an IPO to list its shares on the Nasdaq Global Market.

Meanwhile, Merck KGaA extended its collaboration with F-Star Biotechnology Ltd. and exercised an early option to license a preclinical program. The companies have been working together since 2017 to develop five bispecific immuno-oncology antibodies.

This is the second preclinical program that Merck has licensed from the Cambridge, U.K.-based biotechnology company under the collaboration.

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