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Ligand Grants Preclinical Candidate Rights to UK-based Firm

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Ligand Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (LGND - Free Report) announced that it has signed a license agreement with privately-held UK-based Cumulus Oncology. Per the terms of the agreement, Ligand granted Cumulus exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the novel, oral, selective, Chk1 kinase inhibitor – VER250840 – discovered using Ligand’s Vernalis Design Platform (“VDP”).

The candidate is in pre-clinical stage of development for cancer indications. Ligand will receive as undisclosed amount in upfront payment and is also eligible to receive more than $76 million in milestone payments and tiered royalties.

Shares of Ligand have declined 15.5% so far this year against the industry’s 1.7% increase.

Ligand is focused on strengthening and broadening its technology platform through agreements and acquisitions. In October 2018, Ligand had acquired Vernalis, for approximately $43 million, gaining ownership of VDP. Vernalis has collaborations with global partners for drug discovery across many therapeutic areas, including oncology, CNS, anti-infectives and inflammation.

In 2016, Ligand added OmniAb platform with the acquisition of OMT, Inc. OmniAb and VDP platforms are new technologies, which may boost the company’s major revenue generator platform, Captisol technology.

The Captisol technology has enabled development of several FDA-approved products, which generate royalties for Ligand. In March 2019, Sage Therapeutics (SAGE - Free Report) received approval for postpartum depression drug – Zulresso – which triggered a $3 million milestone payment to Ligand. Amgen’s (AMGN - Free Report) Kyprolis has attained blockbuster status and is a key royalty generating drug for Ligand. It was developed using Captisol technology.

In March, Ligand sold the rights to Novartis’ (NVS - Free Report) Promacta, which was also developed using Captisol technology, for $827 million. The drug had generated almost $100 million in revenues for Ligand in 2018. Ligand plans to use the funds to develop its technologies, acquire companies to drive growth over the next five to 10 years or beyond and continue development of its OmniAb platform.

The development of these technologies may increase signing of new licenses and partnerships, eventually driving revenues at Ligand.

Zacks Rank

Ligand currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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