MedImmune and Infinity Pharmaceuticals have linked hands to jointly develop and bring to market novel small molecule cancer drugs targeting Heat Shock Protein 90 (Hsp90) and the Hedgehog cell-signalling pathway, which seem to play an important role in the growth of many blood-related and solid tumour types.

Under the terms of deal, MedImmune will pay Infinity an upfront fee of $70 million for co-exclusive, shared rights to the Hsp90 and Hedgehog pathway product development programs, and Infinity could get an extra $430 million in milestone payments on achievement of certain developmental goals. Both companies will split all costs and profits from the development and sale of any future products.

For each program, Infinity is responsible for discovery, preclinical development and translational clinical development of candidates through proof-of-concept in humans, after which both firms will jointly conduct clinical development through first product approval. MedImmune will take charge of global regulatory strategy as well as subsequent sales and marketing of, while Infinity holds the option of co-promoting any future products in the US, with a contribution of up to 35% towards any promotion.

Commenting on the deal, Adelene Perkins, Infinity’s Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer, said: “This collaboration with MedImmune allows Infinity to accelerate and maximize the development of our most advanced product candidates while enabling us to share fully in the potential value creation of these products…MedImmune's established clinical, sales and marketing capabilities are a strong complement to Infinity's expertise in novel small molecule drug discovery and development.”

MedImmune, on the other hand, welcomes the opportunity of tapping into these important research areas. “Hsp90 and Hedgehog are among the most attractive targeted therapy opportunities in cancer research today, and the Infinity programs have a very strong competitive position,” explained Edward Mathers, MedImmune's Executive Vice President, Corporate Development and Venture.

“With IPI-504 [the most advanced candidate in the deal], we have a promising drug candidate with already-established preclinical in vivo proof of concept and the potential to reach the market by 2010,” he continued. “In collaboration with Infinity, we plan to accelerate development of the intravenous formulation of IPI-504, as well as to expand into additional tumour types. In addition, we expect to be able to commence clinical testing of the next generation oral formulation of IPI-504, as well as an oral formulation of a hedgehog inhibitor within the next 12 to 18 months.”