California-based biotechnology firm SGX Pharmaceuticals has signed an agreement with Swiss drugmaker Novartis to develop and market new BCR-ABL inhibitors, which are used to treat patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Under the agreement, SGX will receive a $25 million up-front payment from Novartis. Total payments -- excluding royalties -- could exceed $515 million, including a minimum of two years of research funding.
The collaboration aims to develop new drugs for CML patients who have become resistant to Novartis' Gleevec (imatinib), which was approved in May 2001 and is used to treat both CML and gastrointestinal stromal tumors, a type of stomach cancer. In 2005, Gleevec generated $2.2 billion in sales, a 33-percent increase over 2004.
CML, which arises in bone marrow stem cells, is one of the most common types of leukemia. It affects 1 to 2 people per 100,000 and accounts for 7 percent to 20 percent of leukemia cases.