Anti-cancer treatment yields up to US$325M in landmark Australian deal

27 July 2017
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has made a landmark deal worth up to US$325 million from the partial sale of royalty rights in anti-cancer treatment venetoclax, securing the Institute’s place globally for innovation in medical research.
The deal was announced today by Federal Minister for Health the Hon. Greg Hunt MP and Victorian Minister for Health the Hon. Jill Hennessy MP at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne.
Group of four people smiling at camera
L-R: Federal Minister for Health the Hon. Greg Hunt MP,
Institute director Professor Doug Hilton, Victorian Minister
for Health the Hon. Jill Hennessy MP and Institute Board
president Mr Christopher Thomas

CPPIB Credit Europe S.à r.l., a wholly owned subsidiary of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, has acquired rights to a portion of the future venetoclax royalties owned by the Institute. The transaction includes a cash payment of US$250 million upfront and potential milestone payments of up to US$75 million. The Institute will also retain partial royalties in the treatment.

Venetoclax is the result of a research collaboration between the Institute and companies Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, and AbbVie, and is based on groundbreaking scientific discoveries made at the Institute over three decades. Venetoclax is being developed by Genentech and AbbVie.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute director Professor Doug Hilton AO said the Institute’s commitment to scientific excellence, innovation and its collaborative culture underpinned the successful translation of venetoclax.

“The Institute is proud of its contribution to the realisation of this anti-cancer treatment and its potential to improve the lives of many patients around the world,” Professor Hilton said.

“Venetoclax demonstrates what success can look like for a collaborative, entrepreneurial and innovative medical research institute and why investment in basic research is so important.

“With venetoclax, we have shown the Institute has both the scientific determination and entrepreneurial acumen to take basic research all the way to being a clinical and commercial success, alongside our partners. This need not be a one-time event. Venetoclax is proof that Australian institutions can be key players in globally significant translation.

“The Institute’s mission is to make discoveries for humanity and this income will help us deliver on that. It will enhance and accelerate our ability to make fundamental discoveries that can be translated into better treatments, bringing real benefits to patients on a global scale, as well as benefiting the Australian economy,” Professor Hilton said.

A portion of the income will be invested in the Institute’s endowment, ensuring the long term financial stability needed to continue the Institute’s focus on fundamental and translational research. Income will also go towards enhancing and accelerating the discovery and translation of new medicines, the acquisition of state-of-the art dynamic imaging technology and to support the construction of an on-site Early Childhood Education and Care Centre, as part of the Institute’s commitment to supporting staff and their families.

Minister Greg Hunt speaking from a podium

Federal Minister for Health the Hon. Greg Hunt MP
speaking to an audience of Institute staff and students

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute board president Mr Christopher Thomas AM said negotiating a partial sale of rights in the medicine was a unique opportunity for the Institute.

“By taking this approach, we are solidifying the Institute’s financial security, building our funds base for the long term and ensuring groundbreaking scientific research can be undertaken for decades to come,” Mr Thomas said.

“The Institute decided to make a partial sale of rights to minimise the risks associated with the longer term volatility in the pharmaceutical marketplace. Having observed similar transactions by other research institutions, and then realising venetoclax’s potential, we decided this was the right approach for the Institute,” Mr Thomas said.

“We will invest some of the funds into building the Institute’s endowment to create a favourable long-term outlook for the Institute. This will enable us to deliver research initiatives that can lead to further collaboration with commercial partners and the potential for further successes like venetoclax,” Mr Thomas said.

“Retaining partial rights in the treatment ensures the Institute preserves potential future opportunities from the medicine until the global patents expire,” Mr Thomas said.

US, EU, Canadian and Australian therapeutic regulatory bodies have approved venetoclax for treating people with previously treated chronic lymphocytic leukaemia with 17p deletion. This enables doctors to prescribe venetoclax to patients with this form of blood cancer. Venetoclax is jointly commercialised by Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, and AbbVie in the US and by AbbVie outside of the US.

Find out more at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s venetoclax discovery timeline.


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