Accelerated deal-making activity promises delivery of late-stage clinical candidates in head and neck cancer, says GlobalData

Rising strategic partnerships between global pharmaceutical companies to develop therapies in the head and neck cancer space can serve as opportunities for increased scientific development and business collaborations, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Aarohi Rede, BDS, MPH, Oncology Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The past few years have seen several licensing deals globally for clinical development in head and neck cancer. Merck KGaA’s collaboration with Debiopharm has the potential to transform the current treatment paradigm for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) by combining xevinapant, a new molecular entity, with Merck KGaA’s strong commercialization capabilities.”

GlobalData reports approximately 340 licensing agreements since 2004 in head and neck cancer amounting to an approximate total value of $35bn, with the highest recorded licensing agreements in North America, at a $10bn valuation. Of the total licensing agreements signed, the highest recorded licensing agreements took place in North America, followed by Asia-Pacific, while the lowest recorded number of deals belonged to South and Central America.

Rede continues: “Head and neck cancer is largely a chemotherapy-dominated market, but the past few years have seen effective use of Keytruda and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo (nivolumab) in the recurrent or metastatic settings. The current clinical development pipeline has around 20 late-stage agents in the immuno-modulating therapy or cell inhibitor classes, thus revealing a robust late-stage pipeline that is highly conducive to future partnerships for licensing and commercialization, and is expected to contribute to significant market growth over the next ten years.”

Many of these licensing deals involve strategic partnerships between Asia-Pacific, namely Chinese manufacturers, and US pharmaceuticals for joint clinical and commercial development of oncology assets, with the purpose of gaining market access in the US.

Rede adds: “While the currently marketed agents are patent protected, the introduction of drugs through these alliances poses competition for some of the premium-priced therapies, both from a market share and price perspective. While licensing agreements have been one of the key business development tactics in oncology, venture financing ($8.6bn valuation), asset transactions ($4bn valuation), and contract service agreements ($30m valuation) are some of the other investment approaches considered in recent years to advance drug development science in the head and neck space by way of investment capitalism.”

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