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Leap grants BeiGene option to license experimental cancer treatment

Leap Therapeutics Inc. agreed to grant BeiGene Ltd. an option to obtain an exclusive license for the development and commercialization of its experimental drug DKN-01 for $3 million up front.

Under the agreement, BeiGene will make an additional payment at the time of exercising the option and will acquire rights to develop and commercialize DKN-01 in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, excluding Japan.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Leap will be eligible to receive up to $132 million based on certain development, regulatory and sales milestones. Additionally, BeiGene will pay Leap royalties on the sales of DKN-01 in the region.

Concurrently, BeiGene will make a $5 million investment in Leap as part of a larger equity financing agreement that also includes two institutional investors.

Leap will sell 1,421,801 Series A convertible preferred shares to the lead investor and 1,137,442 Series B convertible preferred shares to BeiGene and Perceptive Advisors LLC at $10.55 apiece in the private placement. Leap expects to raise gross proceeds of about $27 million from the equity financing that will close on or before Jan. 8, subject to closing conditions.

The lead institutional investor will also receive a voting preferred share to elect one director on Leap's board. Raymond James & Associates Inc. was the placement agent for the equity financing.

Leap's DKN-01 is designed to target certain signaling pathways that are often implicated in cancer, enabling cancer cells to grow and divide and to suppress the immune system. A combination of DKN-01 and Merck & Co. Inc.'s blockbuster therapy Keytruda extended the lives of certain patients with a type of stomach cancer in a study testing the therapy.

Leap will study DKN-01 in combination with BeiGene's tislelizumab in patients with gastroesophageal junction — the point where the esophagus joins the stomach — and gastric cancer whose tumors expressed high levels of the DKK1 protein during the option period.