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Pfizer Gives Avant A "Bases Loaded" Deal For Cancer Treatment

Bobby Murcer as New York Yankees broadcaster
AP
Bobby Murcer as New York Yankees broadcaster

The world's biggest pharma company is stepping up to the plate again. After the closing bell today PFEannounced it's doing a deal worth up to $440 million over time with a baby biotech called Avant Immunotherapeutics .

It's a partnership on an experimental brain cancer treatment that Yankee center fielder and announcer Bobby Murcer tried in one of the clinical trials.

He's still recovering from the recent discovery of scar tissue--reportedly not a cancer recurrence--that required a biopsy and follow-up treatment that zapped his energy. So much so, that he hasn't been able to work in the broadcast booth this season.

The drug is another one of those therapeutic cancer vaccines that I've blogged about a lot in relation to Dendreon . But the Avant drug, which it got in a recent deal with the privately held Celldex Therapeutics, is for the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer.

Sadly, there really haven't been any medical breakthroughs for it in the past few decades and the prognosis is never very good.

Many biotech and drug companies are working on treatments. For example, Genentech just announced it plans to file by the end of this year for Food and Drug Administration approval of its cancer drug Avastin for use on brain tumors.

This latest PFE deal is chump change for the company which is absolutely loaded with cash. But it's a potential game-changer for a tiny biotech like Avant. Pfizer's giving AVAN $40 million cash money up front, buying $10 million worth of stock, is on the hook for milestone payments over time of more than $390 million and double-digit royalties on sales if this drug or similar ones from Avant ever gets to market--whether for brain tumors or possibly other tumor types.

So, it's a huge deal for Avant, but a relatively cheap bet for Pfizer which needs to swing at nearly every pitch. Investors are waiting for Pfizer to hit one out of the park.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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