Roche bets on Zion HER2 brain metastases prospect

May 9, 2023

Roche has acquired the global rights to Chinese biotech Zion Pharma's lead program, a drug designed to treat or prevent the onset of brain metastases in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. 

ZN-A-1041 is an orally administered selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor targeting the Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2). According to Zion, up to 50% of patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer will develop brain metastasis during the course of the disease. ZN-A-104, which is currently in phase 1 trials in China and the U.S., was designed to be blood-brain-barrier-penetrant.

Per the deal, Roche will take on the development, manufacturing and commercialization of ZN-A-1041 globally. Zion will receive up to $70 million upfront and will also be eligible for up to $610 million in additional payments following achievement of certain development, regulatory and sales-based milestones.

HER2 has become an increasingly popular target for drugmakers in the cancer space and many are looking to Chinese biotechs for partnering opportunities. Back in April, BioNTech signed a  $1.5 billion deal with China-based biotech DualityBio to co-develop and commercialize two cancer ADCs candidates, including DualityBio’s lead candidate, DB-1303, which is a topoisomerase-1 inhibitor-based ADC directed against HER2. Eisai and China-based Bliss Biopharmaceutical just announced a clinical trial collaboration agreement — with the option to license — for BlissBio's ADC candidate directed against HER2 for the treatment of cancers.