RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — G1 Therapeutics, a clinical-stage oncology company in Research Triangle Park, has out-licensed a potential drug for treating certain breast and lung cancers to a Massachusetts startup company in a deal that could be worth more than $300 million.

EQRx, based in Cambridge, Mass., will gain exclusive rights to G1’s lerociclib in the United States, Europe, Japan and all other global markets, excluding the Asia-Pacific region (except Japan).

G1 will receive an up-front cash payment of $20 million and will be eligible to receive development and commercial milestone payments of up to $290 million, plus royalties based on annual net sales of lerociclib if the drug is approved for sale.

“We are excited to partner with EQRx to further development of lerociclib, a differentiated oral CDK4/6 inhibitor designed to enable more effective combination treatment strategies,” said Mark Velleca, M.D., Ph.D., chief executive officer of G1.

The agreement with EQRx is G1’s third strategic collaboration this year.

“Collectively, these partnerships have advanced our goal to provide global access to our promising oncology therapies and extend our financial runway so that we can continue our efforts to bring novel treatments to patients with cancer,” Velleca said.

In June G1 licensed development and commercialization rights to lerociclib in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) to Genor Biopharma, a biopharmaceutical company based in Shanghai.

RTP oncology firm G1 Therapeutics lands deal worth up to $46M for breast cancer drug

Positive preliminary data

Discovered and developed by G1, lerociclib works by inhibiting CDK4 and CDK6, two enzymes involved in cancer formation. Lerociclib is being developed for use in combination with other targeted therapies in certain types of breast and lung cancer.

Preliminary clinical data from a Phase 1/2 trial of patients with estrogen receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer have demonstrated proof-of-concept of the differentiated clinical profile of lerociclib versus currently marketed CDK4/6 inhibitors, with improved tolerability and less neutropenia, according to G1.

Neutropenia, a side effect of CDK4/6 inhibitors, is an abnormally low number of neutrophils — a type of white blood cell — that can cause life-threatening infection.

Current CD4/6 inhibitor treatments require frequent blood testing for neutropenia. Less monitoring would mean fewer office visits and blood draws, improving the experience for patients and reducing the burden on physician offices and costs to the healthcare system, according to G1.

About the companies

G1 is a 2008 spin-out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The company raised $108 million in an initial public offering of stock in 2017 after receiving more than $95 million in three rounds of venture capital funding. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center provided two early stage loans totaling $500,000.

G1’s stock is traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol GTHX.

The company is focused on the discovery, development and delivery of innovative therapies that improve the lives of cancer patients. In addition to lerociclib, it is advancing clinical-stage programs for trilaciclib, a therapy for improving outcomes for patients being treated with chemotherapy, and rintodestrant, an oral treatment for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

G1 is named for the Gap 1 phase, the first of four phases of cell division in humans, plants and animals.

EQRx was launched in January with $200 million in Series A venture capital. The biopharmaceutical company’s mission is to “make innovative medicines at dramatically lower prices for the benefit of people and society.”

(c) North Carolina Biotechnology Center