Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

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I will be at WordCamp Phoenix tomorrow, along with 650 other attendees, for what is set to be an exciting meeting. Not only is it a great opportunity to escape the lousy New Jersey weather, but the meeting program is awesome.

I’m looking forward to learning from WordPress experts and enthusiasts about how I can improve this blog, its design, marketing and functionality. Saturday’s session schedule can be found here.  I have to say the volunteers who set up this meeting have done a great job!!

What’s more, I will be giving a lightning talk (20 slides in 5 minutes) on how to submit a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  This is my first time doing an Ignite style lightning talk, and the first time speaking before 650 people, so I’m a bit nervous, but life is about new challenges and opportunities.  Should be fun, and if all fails there’s the after party to look forward to!!

I’m looking forward to meeting new people and having a good time at WordCamp Phoenix this weekend.

Following on from the recent rise in Xoma shares, that i discussed in yesterday’s blog post, the company announced this morning that they have signed a commercialization deal with Les Laboratoires Servier, France’s largest privately held pharmaceutical company (2010 revenue 3.7 billion euros).

According to the press release, the key elements of the deal are:

  • XOMA will receive approximately $35 million upfront, up to approximately $470 million in milestone payments and tiered royalties up to a mid-teens percentage rate.
  • XOMA retains development and commercialization rights for Behcet’s uveitis and other inflammatory and oncology indications in U.S. and Japan. Servier receives similar rights in the rest of the world.
  • Servier will fund the first $50 million of XOMA 052 development expenses and 50% of further expenses for the Behcet’s uveitis indication. XOMA 052 is expected to advance into Phase 3 development in Behcet’s uveitis in 2011.
  • Servier will fund development for diabetes and cardiovascular disease indications in exchange for worldwide rights.
  • XOMA retains an option to reacquire the development and commercialization rights to the diabetes and cardiovascular indications in the U.S. and Japan by paying an option fee and partial reimbursement of incurred development expenses. If XOMA reacquires these rights, it has the ability to license them to one or more third parties.

It is a large injection of cash into Xoma that will help fund phase 3 clinical trials.  The regional deal also keeps open the possibility of licensing U.S. marketing rights to another partner in the future. The only surprise perhaps is the timing of the announcement which is in advance of the phase 2 clinical trial results for Xoma 052 in diabetes. The expectation from all the signals is that this data will be positive.

There are no guarantees in clinical research, so it will be interesting to see what happens to Xoma 052 as it moves forward in development.

Inspire Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ISPH), a North Carolina based biopharmaceutical company that focuses on products for ophthalmic and pulmonary diseases, recently announced positive results from their phase 3 trial (TIGER-1) of denufosol tetrasodium in patients with Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disorder that can lead to death as a result of pulmonary complications from airway obstruction, bronchial thickening and accumulation of mucous.  Lung function tests are widely used in the diagnosis, treatment and management of patients with CF.  Measurement of FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second) is regarded as the best predicator of mortality.  As the disease progresses and the lungs become more obstructed, FEV1 decreases.

Inspire Pharma’s denufosol is an ion-channel regulator that helps keep the airways moist and helps mucous removal in CF patients.  It increases chloride secretion via calcium-activated chloride  channels (CaCCs), inhibits sodium absorption via epithelial sodium channels (ENaCs) and stimulates ciliary beat frequency.  Conveniently for patients, it is being developed as an inhaled drug delivered direct to the lungs by nebulizer.

The phase 3 clinical trial data presented by Dr Frank Accurso at the Annual North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference, and in the paper published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (AJRCCM), showed an improvement in lung function after 24 weeks in patients with mild CF who received daily denusofol by means of a nebulizer.  The primary efficacy endpoint was a change in FEV1:

Source: October 21, 2010 presentation by Frank J. Accurso M.D. to North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference.  Available at Inspire Pharma.

Dr Accurso and his colleagues reported that the results demonstrated:

“Mean change from baseline to Week 24 endpoint in expiratory volume at 1 second (primary efficacy endpoint) was 0.048 L for denufosol (n=178) and 0.003 L for placebo (n=174; P=0.047).”

Despite the significant improvement in FEV1, there was no significant difference between the denufosol and placebo arms in the time to progression to first pulmonary exacerbation, suggesting that its long-term clinical effectiveness remains uncertain.

Source: October 21, 2010 presentation by Frank J. Accurso M.D. to North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference.  Available at Inspire Pharma.

Notwithstanding, these results do offer hope to patients with mild symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis.  Early treatment to maintain lung function may delay the onset of more severe physiological changes and the need for more radical treatment options such as a heart/lung transplant.

Thanks to BBC Health for writing about this topic and giving me the idea for this post.

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