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Hutchmed, Epizyme Ink Deal to Develop, Commercialize EZH2 Inhibitor Tazvernik in China

NEW YORK – Chinese pharma company Hutchmed and US-based firm Epizyme on Monday announced a collaboration to develop and commercialize Epizyme's EZH2 inhibitor tazemetostat (Tazvernik) in China.

The two companies will research, develop, manufacture, and commercialize tazemetostat in Greater China, comprising mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Hutchmed will pay Epizyme $25 million upfront, an additional $110 million if Hutchmed meets certain development and regulatory milestones, and up to $175 million in sales milestone payments. In turn, Hutchmed will receive a four-year warrant to acquire up to $65 million of Epizyme shares at $11.50 per share.

Hutchmed will focus on developing tazemetostat for various blood cancers and solid tumors, including epithelioid sarcoma, follicular lymphoma, and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. The two companies will also collaborate on a global registrational Phase III trial studying tazemetostat plus R2, a combination of lenalidomide (BMS' Revlimid) and rituximab (Genentech/Biogen's Rituxan), in patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma. The trial is studying tazemetostat plus R2's activity compared to placebo plus R2 in follicular lymphoma patients with and without an EZH2 mutation.

"We view the activity of [tazemetostat] and its epigenetic mechanism in controlling the expression of certain genes as highly complementary and potentially synergistic with our broad portfolio of novel oncology assets," Hutchmed CEO Christian Hogg said in a statement. "This collaboration will accelerate the exploration of the clinical potential of EZH2 inhibition in multiple tumor types, including both hematological malignancies and solid tumors."

Epizyme expects the collaboration will lead to tazemetostat becoming the first marketed EZH2 inhibitor in Greater China, said Epizyme CEO Robert Bazemore. Tazemetostat was approved in the US last year to treat epithelioid sarcoma and EZH2-mutated follicular lymphoma.

To support the latter indication, Epizyme partnered with Quest Diagnostics earlier this year to provide EZH2 mutation testing for lymphoma patients.