Incyte (Nasdaq: INCY ) has something to be thankful for this week. Novartis (NYSE: NVS ) is giving the company a wad of cash to license its most promising drug candidate.
The drug, INCB18424, is an inhibitor of JAK1 and JAK2, two proteins involved in signaling in the cell with inflammatory diseases and cancer. The drug is already in phase 3 trials for patients with myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disease. For $210 million now and up to $1.1 billion in future milestone payments, Incyte only had to give up the rights to the drug outside the U.S. Plus, it'll get double-digit royalties on those sales.
Myelofibrosis isn't that common of a disease, so retaining the U.S. rights and fielding its own sales force in the States seems like a good move by Incyte. Novartis has plenty of experience launching oncology drugs, so it makes for a good excluding-the-U.S. partner.
Incyte did have to throw in a preclinical cancer drug, INCB28060, to sweeten the deal. Novartis gets worldwide rights to the potential cancer drug, although Incyte retained an option to co-promote the drug if it makes it onto the market.
Incyte is also developing a topical version of INCB18424 for treatment of psoriasis, which wasn't included as part of this deal. The phase 2 data looked good, and if the drug can get through phase 3 development, it should have a good chance at competing with Abbott Labs' (NYSE: ABT ) Humira, Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) and Amgen's (Nasdaq: AMGN ) Enbrel, and Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ ) Remicade, all of which have to be injected or transfused. Applying INCB18424 directly to the skin should be more acceptable to patients than being poked with needles.
While the partnership looks like a good deal for Incyte, the company doesn't look like much of a Black Friday bargain, with a market cap of $1 billion and no drugs on the market. With the money from Novartis, Incyte shouldn't have much problem getting through phase 3 trials for INCB18424 and the company certainly will be worth more if it can get a drug on the market. I'm just not convinced the reward right now is worth any risk of failure for INCB18424.
Then again, maybe it's just me who doesn't know Jack.