Onyx's lawsuit against Bayer over their joint venture on cancer drug Nexavar reads like a love affair gone wrong -- complete with allegations of Bayer going behind Onyx's back, cheating on the company as it concealed its intent to steal Onyx's baby.
You can download Onyx's complaint here. Meanwhile, here's a digest. Like all breakups, one party is horribly embittered:
Onyx files this lawsuit to stop Bayer Corporation from seizing for itself what the parties have agreed to share -- the proceeds from a potentially lifesaving and lucrative cancer drug ...Their affair started with a meet-cute:
For Bayer, the American arm of a multinational pharmaceutical giant, the costs were modest. But for Onyx, a start-up company with few assets beyond the human capital of its scientists, the investment in sorafenib [Nexavar] literally was a "bet the company" proposition.Onyx forsook all others, shutting down discovery on all other compounds, laying off its entire drug discovery team, and terminating other clinical programs. The relationship was perfect -- they made $1 billion in sales together. But pretty soon, Bayer's eye began to wander:
Now that Onyx had taught Bayer how to identify effective targeted cancer therapies ... Bayer embarked on a secret program to develop a compound that the parties first identified early in their collaboration [flouro-sorafenib] ... surreptitiously filing patent applications and initiating clinical trials.The 1994 agreement between the two companies required disclosure of research results and patent applications; the research threw up hundreds of nearly identical compounds, including the three pictured here. The top one is Nexavar (sorafenib). The middle one is flouro-sorafenib, which Onyx claims Bayer stole from their love nest. And the bottom one is chloro-sorafenib, which Onyx has thrown in to demonstrate that you can add on any old molecule in the F or Cl position and it's still basically Nexavar. Onyx says:
In or around 2003, Bayer, along with subsidiaries of Bayer AG, surreptitiously began filing patent applications directed to flouro-sorafenib. Flouro-sorafenib was not a compound Bayer had recently discovered, or indeed, involved any new discovery. ... on the contrary, Onyx and Bayer had explicitly identified flouro-sorafenib in 1998.Bayer renamed the chemical DAST in 2005, the suit alleges (isn't it funny how drug companies think that rebranding something will cure all their problems?) The company hedged on requests to identify DAST until March 31 2009:
When Onyx recently discovered Bayer's scheme and confronted Bayer, Bayer refused to concede Onyx's rights in flouro-sorafenib...Now Onyx says that Bayer is carrying its baby, and it wants custody rights:
Bayer and its affiliates intend to market Onyx and Bayer's joint discovery -- flouro-serafenib -- as a direct competitor to the companies' joint product, sorafenib ... without sharing the rewards.The situation will develop later this month, when Bayer is expected to have results for a DAST phase II kidney cancer trial, the suit states.