Saturday, January 07, 2012
Industry business-development executives rang in the start of what should be a most interesting New Year's (the score's been set for a while, but the performance is NOW: the biosimilars, patent cliffs, companion diagnostics, ongoing financing uncertainty and the big gorilla, health care reform) with half a dozen deals, including Forma's second big partnership in six months and a joint licensing agreement between Alnylam and Arrowhead.
Also this week 2012 saw its first NO DEAL! as Astellas opted out of a worldwide development and commercialization agreement with Theravance over the latter's Vibativ (telavancin), a bacteriacide, once-daily injection.
An as if to shock the troops to attention ASAP, Teva announced on New Year's Day an unexpected -- at least by most of industry -- management change, with Bristol Myers' newly resigned head of business development and strategy Jeremy Levin slated to succeed Shlomo Yanai as CEO in May, almost guaranteeing a higher biz dev profile for the global generics/specialty pharmaco.
By the end of the week the calendar new year seemed way back in the rear view as industry's own annual celebration loomed larger. And of course everyone's timing their news to next week -- deals, fundraising, and cocktails await. We'll see you in San Francisco. Meanwhile, it's ...
Forma/Boehringer Ingelheim: Cambridge, MA -based computational drug discovery platform developer Forma Therapeutics Inc. struck its second big partnership in just over six months on Jan. 5. Boehringer Ingelheim GMBH agreed to pay $65 million upfront, plus another $750 million in potential pre-commercial milestone payments, to discover oncology treatments that affect protein-protein interactions. The companies will select an unspecified number of targets jointly; a few have been determined already, but the remainder will be selected over the course of the four-year deal. In late June, Genentech Inc. and Forma agreed to discover cancer metabolism drugs in a deal of undisclosed size. Genentech received an option to acquire the program, which if exercised would return money to Forma’s venture investors. The BI deal also has “a return for our shareholders built in,” according to Forma CEO Steven Tregay, although there’s no buyout option this time. He declined to provide further details. Forma, which has additional platform discovery deals with Eisai, Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Novartis, has raised $33 million from Lilly Ventures, Bio*One Capital and the Novartis Option Fund in two venture rounds since 2008. It’s planning to develop drugs on its own as well, although Tregay said it’s still building a broad pipeline rather than concentrating on one or two candidates--Paul Bonanos.
Biogen/Isis: Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Jan. 4 that it garnered a deal with Biogen Idec for its antisense technology, adding to the list of large companies that have partnered with the biotech. Biogen and Isis have agreed to collaborate on the development of ISIS-SMN, a Phase I compound meant for the treatment of a rare genetic disorder called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Biogen will pay Isis $29 million upfront as well as $45 million in potential milestones for the option to license the compound after it has reached the proof of concept phase. Should Biogen choose to license the drug, it will assume full development and regulatory responsibilities. Isis will be eligible for another $225 million in milestone payments, along with double-digit royalties on sales, and also will retain some commercialization rights. Isis and Biogen may be the first companies to bring a treatment to market for SMA, but others are not far behind. Both Novartis and Roche have invested in preclinical treatments for the disorder. Roche agreed to pay as much as $490 million to PTC Therapeutics Inc. for the rights to its SMA program--Lisa Lamotta.
Alnylam/Arrowhead: With Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. focusing mainly on internal pipeline efforts following the termination of collaborations with Roche and Novartis late in 2010, the pioneering RNA-interference company has licensed Arrowhead Research Corp.’s Dynamic Polyconjugate (DPC) technology to use toward developing an RNAi therapeutic. Terms were not disclosed for the deal, announced Jan. 5. Alnylam says it will deploy the DPC technology – a systemic small-interfering RNA delivery platform that enables efficient target gene silencing via polymer-based formulation chemistry – against an undisclosed target in its proprietary “5x15” pipeline, five assets it hopes to drive into advanced clinical development by the end of 2015. As part of the deal Arrowhead acquires a license to Alnylam’s intellectual property related to targeting the hepatitis B virus. Alnylam can receive milestones and royalties from Arrowhead on any product derived from its HBV RNAi intellectual property, while Arrowhead likewise can earn milestones and royalties from any marketed product resulting from Alnylam’s licensure of the DPC technology. Meanwhile, on Jan. 4, Alnylam announced it had achieved positive preliminary results from a Phase I trial of ALN-PCS, one of the 5x15 assets. In the study, ALN-PCS, which targets the PCSK9 gene to treat severe cholesterolemia, demonstrated statistically significant RNAi silencing of PCSK9, up to 66%, and reductions of more than 50% in LDL cholesterol levels in participants--Joseph Haas.
Ipsen/Oncodesign: Ipsen, the mid-sized French pharmaceutical company, is tapping the research of fellow French CRO and drug discovery firm, Oncodesign, to develop its new LRRK2 kinase inhibitors, which have potential to treat Parkinson's disease. The research collaboration could see Ipsen paying Oncodesign €115 million ($146 million) in research and opt-in fees, development milestones and sales royalties. The Ipsen deal is the first involving drug discovery with a major pharma company for Oncodesign, a private CRO set up in 1995 to provide preclinical oncology pharmacology services. Its investors include a trio of French venture capital firms: CIC-Vizille Capital Innovation, CDC Enterprises and Avenir Entreprises. At the same time, new Parkinson's disease therapies fit neatly into Ipsen's focus on neurology, one of four therapeutic areas the specialty pharma is now concentrating on. One of its major marketed products is the botulinum toxin product for dystonia, Dysport (botulinum toxin type A). Ipsen has landed two options to exclusively license worldwide development, manufacturing and commercialization rights to Oncodesign's LRRK2 inhibitor program when it successfully reaches clinical proof of concept. Oncodesign will receive a technology access fee, funding for the program's research and early development activities and upon exercise of the license options, opt-in fees and additional development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments potentially totaling €115 million for the development of molecules in two or more indications, and tiered royalties on net sales. Mutations in the LRRK2 gene, which produces a protein with multiple activities, including GTPase and kinase activities, have been linked to genetically inherited Parkinson's disease, and Oncodesign has developed a macrocyclisation process, Nanocyclix, which it says produces potent and selective kinase inhibitors.--John Davis
Ironwood/Bionomics: As it begins with various partners to traverse various global regulatory landscapes with its IBS/constipation compound linaclotide, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc. has been on the prowl for earlier-stage assets to back-fill its pipeline. On Jan. 4, the company said it would pay $3 million upfront for worldwide development and commercialization rights to BNC210, a clinical-stage anti-anxiety program from Australia’s Bionomics Ltd. All told, the deal could be worth $345 million plus royalties for Bionomics, including the upfront and $10 million in payments expected in the next two years. The deal marks Ironwood’s third since last January, but the first that adds a clinical compound to its pipeline. Previous deals included a discovery alliance around Protagonist Therapeutics peptide technology and a delivery pact with Depomed Inc. BNC210 has completed two Phase Ib studies in a total of more than 80 healthy volunteers, and according to the company, acts by a novel (but undisclosed) mechanism of action that should avoid side effects common to anxiety medicines. It is Bionomics’ second most advanced project, behind the unpartnered Phase II oncology compound BNC105. Ironwood joins a stable of partners at Bionomics that includes Genmab AS and Merck Serono SA--Chris Morrison.
Endo/BioDelivery Sciences: Endo Pharmaceuticals, which has radically reshaped its product portfolio in recent years in order to diversify away from overdependence on the pain medication Lidoderm (lidocaine transdermal) is assuming worldwide exclusive licensing rights to BEMA Buprenorphine (bioerodible MucoAdhesive delivery system) from BioDelivery Sciences. The drug is a chronic opioid-based pain therapy that fits well with Endo’s pain medication franchise. Endo paid $30 million upfront, and has agreed to pay additional milestones totaling $150 million, plus tiered royalties ranging from the mid-to-upper teen percentages of net sales. The milestone breakdown is as follows: $95 million in potential pre-defined intellectual property, development and regulatory milestones, plus $55 million in commercial milestones. The BEMA delivery technology consists of a small, bioerodible, polymer-thin film, which is applied to the inner lining of the cheek. BEMA buprenorphine met primary endpoints in a Phase II trial in 2009 and is currently in Phase III trials, with potential to file in 2012. BioDelivery estimates its sales could reach $500 million--Wendy Diller
image courtesy flickr user EDubya/creative commons license