Friday, November 16, 2012

Deals Of The Week: A Better Way To Investigate Clinical Trial Investigators?

In tandem with a 10-company effort launched in September to resolve clinical development hurdles, three pharmas are coming together to establish a databank that participants will be able to use to evaluate potential clinical trial sites and investigators. The Investigator Databank initially will be a joint effort of Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co. and Eli Lilly, but other participants from the non-profit TransCelerate BioPharma initiative are expected to join in eventually.

Andreas Koester, head of clinical trial innovation/external alliances for J&J’s Janssen R&D, said the initiative’s primary goal will be to “avoid redundancy” in paperwork for selecting and approving trial sites and in training clinical trial investigators.

Koester, who will lead the effort, told Deals of the Week that the Investigator Databank should be ready to go by the end of this year. The initial three participating firms already have uploaded their information into the databank but it is behind firewalls for now so none of the companies can access another’s data until the initiative begins. Other companies participating in TransCelerate are expected to begin contributing information by the middle of 2013.

“The R&D team at Janssen came together last year to look at our clinical-trial process and see what could be improved upon and what could be streamlined,” Koester said. “There were some things that needed a common solution and would only work if we teamed up with our peers.”

The databank, which will not include any patient data, is intended to serve as a one-stop repository where key information about trial sites, such as what equipment a site does or doesn’t have and the Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training records of its personnel, can be accessed by any participating company. The expectation is that the jointly provided data will minimize redundacy in much of the site- and investigator-selection process, such as prequalification and CGP training. To aid the effort, each participating company will agree to acknowledge one another’s GCP protocols and work toward an industry standard, Koester noted.

J&J and Lilly were among the 10 pharma companies (Merck was not, however) that announced Sept. 18 the creation of TransCelerate and its five goals, one of which was the centralization of trial site prequalification and training. TransCelerate CEO Garry Neil said the databank’s work will be aligned with the non-profit’s focus on clinical study execution.

“Industry collaboration, including pre-competitive data-sharing, is critical to ensuring continued progress to improve industry-wide clinical trial practices,” Neil said.

Beyond the benefits of time conservation, the databank also is expected to benefit clinical trial quality by making it more feasible for investigators to participate in multiple trials. Koester said that many investigators don’t participate in more than one or two clinical trials because the paperwork tends to be too time-consuming and takes away from time spent with patients. Companies therefore churn through investigators and often have trouble finding more.

“Sharing our investigator databases will help optimize administrative activities by mutually recognizing training and other essential information that is required of our investigators, as well as allow us the ability to include key investigators around the world with whom we have not worked in the past,” said David Detoro, head of global trial management for Merck Research Laboratories. “All of this will help lead to more efficient clinical trial execution – a critical component of getting novel products to patients in a timely fashion.”

While biopharmaceutical companies are finding ways to work together to make clinical trials more efficient, they nonetheless continue competing in the business development world. For the latest examples, check out our latest summary of  …

Forest/Adamas: Adamas Pharmaceuticals and Forest Laboratories are counting on simplification and reduced frequency of dosing to carry Arimenda, a fixed-dose combination of two long-marketed drugs to treat dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Privately held Adamas out-licensed the drug to Forest Nov. 14 in a deal that includes a $65 million upfront payment as well as potential milestone payments and sales royalties. The deal, under which Forest will assume all developmental and commercialization costs for the drug in the U.S. market, brings Adamas a $65 million upfront payment. In addition, Adamas could earn up to $95 million in development and regulatory milestones, as well as royalties on net sales beginning five years after U.S. launch of the memantine/donepezil combo product. Arimenda is a fixed-dose combination of extended-release memantine (Forest’s Namenda XR) and immediate-release donepezil (Eisai/Pfizer’s Aricept), which Adamas was developing using its own extended-release technology. However, Forest, which has been working to ameliorate a looming patent cliff as Namenda and antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram) lose exclusivity, bought out U.S. rights to Arimenda with a plan to use its own proprietary extended-release memantine formulation in the product. That formulation, combined with several Adamas patents, will give the new product patent protection into 2029 and could help Forest extend the life of its franchise. It’s unclear if Forest intends to use the Arimenda brand name. – Joseph Haas

Colby/MannKind: Small, privately held Colby Pharmaceutical has built a portfolio of clinical-stage assets, focused mainly in cancer, in the last year through in-licensing and acquisitions. The most recent of three transactions is a licensing deal with MannKind, announced Nov. 13. Colby acquired worldwide rights to develop and commercialize disease-specific antigen compounds and intra-lymph node delivery technologies from MannKind’s novel MKC1106 immunotherapy programs, currently being studied for the treatment of melanoma, prostate cancer and hematological disorders. In exchange, Colby agreed to pay $140 million in upfront and potential milestone payments to MannKind. The San Jose, Calif.-based company plans to further develop the MKC1106-MT regimen in a Phase II melanoma trial. It is the most advanced intra-lymph node injection regimen from the program, and also plans to study the technology with its lead compound, the cancer adjuvant JVRS-100, a cationic lipid-based immune activator, and eventually with other adjuvants that might be in development outside the company. The partnership with MannKind is one of three deals Colby has completed since September 2011. At that time, Colby acquired worldwide rights to the lipid-based immune activator JVRS-100 from Juvaris BioTherapeutics, along with the company’s broader technology platform, called cationic lipid-DNA complex. Colby also acquired Othera Pharmaceuticals in September, obtaining a portfolio of small-molecule compounds for Nrf-2 regulated diseases characterized by oxidative stress injury. – Jessica Merrill

Pernix/Cypress/Hawthorn: Houston-based specialty drug manufacturer Pernix Therapeutics Holdings announced a deal to acquire generic drug maker Cypress Pharmaceuticals and its subsidiary Hawthorn Pharmaceuticals, a branded business, on Nov. 14. Under the terms of the agreement, Pernix will pay $68.5 million upfront in cash along with $12.5 million in equity. A delayed payment of $10 million will be paid out in December 2013 and the final $10 million will be paid in milestone payments, the triggers of those milestones were not disclosed. Cypress and Hawthorn are privately held companies founded in 1993 and based in Madison, Miss. They are expected to report out revenues of about $50 million in 2012. More than half of the company’s sales come from generic products including cough and cold medications, nutritional supplements, analgesics, urinary tract remedies and women’s health treatments. The remaining 46% of revenues were brought in by the branded side of the business under the Hawthorn name, which includes pharmaceutical products for allergy, respiratory, iron deficiency, nephrology and pain management. The acquisition is expected bring Pernix’s 2013 revenues to a range of $135 million to $145 million. The deal also will have synergies with the last acquisition Pernix made – its $4.9 million acquisition of Houston-based contract manufacturer Great Southern Laboratories in July. – Lisa LaMotta

Foundation Medicine/AstraZeneca/Ariad: Cancer genomic analysis play Foundation Medicine announced a pair of partnerships Nov. 12-13, bringing its number of disclosed partnerships to seven this year. Financial details weren’t disclosed for either deal. The AstraZeneca collaboration is a multi-year tie-up in which the partners will work to identify alterations in cancer-related genes to help predict patient response or resistance to targeted therapies. AstraZeneca hopes to use the information to aid drug development. Foundation Medicine also was granted right-of-first-negotiation for developing diagnostics as part of the deal. The Ariad Pharmaceuticals partnership is focused on genomic profiling for a specific candidate, AP26113. The companies will develop genomic profiles of patients in an ongoing Phase I/II trial to treat non-small cell lung cancer and match them to clinical observations on the activity and selectivity of AP26113. The idea is to identify the best patient population for the dual-inhibitor of ALK and EGFR, which could speed development time. Foundation Medicine launched its first product in June, FoundationOne, which enables physicians to identify the molecular alterations involved in a particular patient’s cancer and match them with relevant approved therapies and clinical trials. The firm raised $42.5 million from 10 investors in a Series B financing that closed in September. – Stacy Lawrence

Alnylam/Tekmira: In our “Revised Deal of the Week,” Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has settled a trade-secrets suit brought by partner Tekmira Pharmaceuticals and inked a new licensing agreement that restructures their relationship. The twin actions free Alnylam from a thorny legal problem and enable it to manufacture its own drug candidates. Under the new agreement, Alnylam will make a one-time payment of $30 million to Tekmira to buy out manufacturing obligations so that Alnylam can independently manufacture lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology for RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics. In addition, Alnylam said it will make a one-time payment of $35 million related to the termination of prior license agreements and a “significant reduction in milestone and royalty payments” for its lead RNAi programs, ALN-VSP, ALN-PCS and ALN-TTR02. In a Nov. 13 conference call, Alnylam CEO John Maraganore said that over the past year the company has developed internal capabilities and proprietary processes for manufacturing LNP-based products. He noted that Alnylam would be able to manufacture its lead compound ALN-TTRO2, being developed for treatment of transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis, for the start of Phase III trials and expects to supply the drug at least through the early stages of commercialization. Phase II trial data on ALN-TTRO2 are expected in mid-2013 and the pivotal study is to begin by the end of 2013. Tekmira also is eligible to receive an additional $10 million in near-term milestones – a $5 million payment when ALN-TTR02 enters a pivotal trial and a $5 million payment when clinical trials for ALN-VSP begin in China. Tekmira also will receive five additional non-exclusive licenses to develop and commercialize RNAi therapeutics based on Alnylam’s siRNA payload technologies and will pay Alnylam milestones and royalties for these products. – Brenda Sandburg

TG Therapeutics/Ildong Pharmaceutical: Korea’s Ildong Pharmaceutical signed a licensing agreement with TG Therapeutics on Nov. 15 to co-develop and commercialize the latter’s anti-CD20 antibody ublituximab (TGTX-1101) in South Korea and Southeast Asia. MedCI LLC served as licensing advisor and provided assistance to TG Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the acquisition, development and commercialization of treatments for cancer and other underserved therapeutic needs. Under the terms of the agreement, TG Therapeutics is receiving an upfront payment of $2 million in addition to sales-based milestone and royalty payments in exchange for exclusive rights to develop and commercialize Ublituximab for all therapeutic indications in the territory, which also includes Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam. TG Therapeutics is developing ublituximab for hematologic malignancies and other B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders. Currently, it is being evaluated in a North American Phase I/II clinical trial in patients with relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. – Peter Chang

But those weren't the only deals made during the past business week. Here is a roundup of other business development transactions occurring in the biopharmaceutical arena in the past seven days:

  • MedImmune and biOasis Technologies entered an R&D agreement Nov. 14 to investigate the latter's Transcend technology for delivery of compounds to the brain;
  • Reckitt Benckiser made a $1.4 billion offer Nov. 15 to buy out Schiff Nutritional, topping an earlier offer from Bayer AG;
  • GlaxoSmithKline and Aptuit announced a multi-year expansion of their drug-development partnership in Verona, Italy, on Nov. 13;
  • Boehringer Ingelheim and BaroFold signed a non-exclusive license on Nov. 13 to use BaroFold's PreEMT (Pressure Enabled Manufacturing Technology) platform for protein refolding work in BI's drug production; and
  • Synthetic Biologics acquired clinical-stage beta-lactamase assets for prevention of Clostridium difficile infections Nov. 12 from Prev AbR LLC.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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