Zealand Deals Diabetes Drug to Aventis
Denmark's Zealand Pharma inked its second Big Pharma deal in as many months when it out-licensed its lead product, a Phase II diabetes treatment, to Aventis. Zealand's accelerated development of the product--which was tested immediately in patients, bypassing healthy volunteers--provided the firm with clinical proof of prinicple, on a budget.
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Denmark's Gastrotech Pharma is harnessing gastro-intestinal hormones such as ghrelin and GLP-1 to develop more effective therapies for irritable bowel syndrome and cachexia.
Roche's October 2003 in-licensing of Ipsen's Phase I GLP-1 analog buys the Swiss group an initial stake in the fast-growing diabetes market. Most established diabetes players already have a compound in this class, but the partners hope that Ipsen's expertise in peptide delivery will set this program apart from competitors'. As the second licensing agreement between Roche and Ipsen in less than a year, the deal further validates Ipsen's pipeline, and suggests that Roche's carefully-managed partnership strategy continues to encourage repeat business.
Biovitrum's record-breaking deal with Amgen--the largest licensing transaction by a European Biotech player to date-secures for Biovitrum the financial and strategic means to help it become a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company. The deal is also strategically important to Amgen, giving the company a way into the primary care segment. But the price and risk are high: there's no clinical proof of efficacy on the compound and there's no competitive compound on the market, or even in late-stage clinical trials, proving the value of the target. Thus the broader implication for the industry: as the costs of late-stage licensing become prohibitive-and the compounds themselves unavailable-in-licensers are increasingly looking to earlier-stage products to bolster their pipelines, with deal prices, and risks, rising correspondingly.