Anti-cancer drug lands huge royalties deal

Kaitlyn Offer

A Melbourne research institute has scored a $400 million royalties windfall for its groundbreaking anti-cancer medicine.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has partially sold the royalty rights to venetoclax, a treatment that inhibits a protein that makes cancer cells in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia patients resistant to other therapies.

The institute has sold some of its royalty rights to a subsidiary of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.

The deal includes an up front $US250 million cash payment and a potential milestone payment of $US75 million, taking the tally to more than $A404 million.

It's thought to be the biggest deal of its kind outside of the US.

"For us it's a really prudent deal, it gives us money up front now that allows us to invest in great science but it also allows us to share in the possibility of even greater returns in the future," institute director Doug Hilton told reporters on Thursday.

The deal means the institute can build its endowment to make sure venetoclax is not "a once in a generation experience for the institute", Prof Hilton said.

"We have a number of other great projects in pipelines that are being worked on in collaboration with pharmaceutical industries and other philanthropic groups around the world," he said.

"We want to invest some of this money into making new medicine pipelines for Australia and Victoria and something that can create new industries and new jobs."

The deal was announced by federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and his Victorian counterpart Jill Hennessy on Thursday at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne.

Mr Hunt told reporters it was one of the "great moments in Australian medical science".

"Perhaps even more significantly the research is being now to discover whether or not venetoclax can spread across and be used to protect against other forms of cancer," Mr Hunt said.