Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vanda/Novartis: ... And the Circle of Life is Complete

The surprise approval of iloperidone (Fanapt) earned back in May by Vanda Pharmaceuticals had a lot of people (OK maybe just us?) scratching their heads to come up with comparable instances of molecules that were dumped by pharma and eventually made it to market. Like our lion king friends here, they also had to crane their necks to see where Vanda's stock price went.

Sure there are some ex-pharma molecules that wind up getting on the market (you helped us come up with half a dozen or so), but there aren't a lot. And that's a fact that biotechs eager to in-license discarded pharma assets needed to reckon with.

Vanda's unlikely success with iloperidone continues. Last night the biotech announced it was selling US/Canadian development and commercialization rights to Fanapt back to Novartis, for $200 million, plus milestones and royalties. It's the circle of life!

Novartis is now responsible for the drug's development in the US and Canada, "including the development and commercialization of a long-acting injectable (or depot) formulation of Fanapt," says the release. Vanda keeps rights to both formulations outside of those territories and will pay Novartis a royalty, though Novartis has an option to negotiate for those rights. Vanda investors like the deal--the company's stock is up again (this time only 35% or so).

As a reminder, here's the molecule's long and colorful business development history: In January 1997, Hoechst licensed the drug to now-tiny Titan Pharmaceuticals. Titan turned around later that year and licensed the drug to Novartis. Novartis and Titan ran into trouble in Phase III when the drug was shown to cause QT prolongation; Vanda took on development of the drug in 2004, and received the Not Approvable letter from FDA last July. The FDA's 180-degree shift to APPROVED came in May 2009.

Has Novartis pulled off the old don't-want-it-oh-wait-actually-we-do-want-it before? Yes, with Speedel Group's Tekturna renin inhibitor for hypertension. That deal was a little bit more straightforward, and certainly designed with the claw-back in mind (Novartis eventually bought out Speedel for nearly $900 million, so it was more expensive too).

Iloperidone may not be the kind of asset that pushes Novartis to snap up all of Vanda in the same way. But after this drug's twists and turns, you'd be crazy to rule it out.

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