AbbVie Expands Fibrotic Disease Partnership With Morphic Therapeutics


A two-year-old partnership with AbbVie is paying off for Morphic Therapeutics. This morning the company announced the Illinois-based pharma giant has exercised a license agreement to develop a treatment for fibrotic diseases.

In 2018, AbbVie and Waltham, Mass.-based Morphic Therapeutics struck a research and development collaboration to advance Morphic’s oral integrin therapeutics, which are designed to block TGF-β activation in fibrotic diseases. Today the companies said they will advance Morphic’s αvβ6 integrin inhibitors for the treatment of fibrotic diseases including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and additional indications. The αvβ6 integrin activates transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β), a key driver of tissue fibrosis. The license covers αvβ6 integrin specific inhibitors discovered from Morphic’s proprietary MInT Platform, including the compounds MORF-720 and MORF-627, which are supported by an extensive preclinical data package demonstrating potential as treatments for IPF as well as other fibrotic diseases.

Fibrosis occurs when chronic inflammation or persistent injury leads to the development of excessive connective tissue, which can lead to organ damage and impaired function. Fibrosis-related diseases can affect nearly all tissues and organ systems. The pro-fibrotic cytokine TGF-β is a key regulator of fibrosis, but attempts to globally suppress its activity have been met with limitations due to toxicity concerns. Several integrins, such as αvβ6, play a dominant role in local activation of TGF-β in diseased tissues. Inhibition of these integrins is therefore a compelling strategy for treating chronic fibrotic diseases with a significant advantage over global TGF-β inhibitors.

“The preclinical data strongly support Morphic’s selective small molecule inhibitors of αvβfor development in fibrotic disease. AbbVie has been an excellent partner through the preclinical development of this program and we believe that their decision to assume leadership for the next stages of development is a strong vote of confidence in our collaboration, as well as Morphic’s MInT platform to generate orally available integrin inhibitors,” Praveen Tipirneni, president and chief executive officer of Morphic Therapeutic said in a statement.

Under terms of the licensing deal, Morphic will receive an infusion of $20 million for the license fee along with potential future development milestone payments and royalties from the sales of any commercialized candidates. When the companies first struck the agreement, Morphic received $100 million in upfront funds. Morphic retains cost-sharing rights in the development of liver fibrosis indications and may opt into paying a percentage of AbbVie’s development costs in exchange for enhanced royalties.

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