Jeffrey Hessekiel, executive vice president and general counsel at Exelixis. Handout photo.

In less than a year, Exelixis Inc. has inked four significant, complex collaboration and licensing agreements with other biopharmaceutical companies.

The deals revolve around Exelixis’ cabozantinib, a medication used to treat medullary thyroid cancer and advanced kidney cancer that has grown after treatment with other medications.

“Cabozantinib was approved quickly as supported by great data, and we needed to quickly resolve the question: ‘How will the drug get into the hands of patients who need it around the globe as quickly as possible? Who is going to help us do that?’” said Jeffrey Hessekiel, executive vice president and general counsel at South San Francisco-based Exelixis.

The deals are:

  • An agreement that gives French biotechnology firm Ipsen exclusive rights to cabozantinib’s development and commercialization around the world, with the exceptions of the United States and Japan. Under the agreement, Exelixis received $200 million upfront and can receive $545 million of potential commercial milestones, as well as tiered royalties on ex-U.S. sales.
  • An exclusive licensing agreement with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. to develop and commercialize cabozantinib in Japan. Under the terms, Exelixis received $50 million upfront and can receive $95 million in additional potential payments, as well as royalties on sales by Takeda.
  • Two separate clinical development collaborations with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Genentech Inc., which evaluate cabozantinib’s combination with the partners’ leading immunotherapy products.

Hessekiel said that going into 2016, after a few very tough years, Exelixis didn’t have extensive in-house resources to apply to these deals and so the company called on outside counsel at Cooley for support.

The company has also achieved success by collaborating with the business side, which has recently added more employees, bringing more people to the table.

“People come together with a real sense of purpose and intention to make something happen,” said Hessekiel. “At Exelixis, you don’t have to worry about people doing their part or getting things done because we’re all pretty enthusiastic contributors to the company’s mission.

“This type of transaction is best fulfilled when all the various subject-matter experts come to the table,” he continued. “It puts the legal team in the best position possible to negotiate very favorable terms.”