AstraZeneca PLC, Eolas Forge $145M+ Pact On Smoking Cessation Plan

AstraZeneca PLC (AZN), Eolas Forge $145M+ Pact On Smoking Cessation Plan
June 30, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

Carlsbad, Calif.-based Eolas Therapeutics, Inc. is having a good day Tuesday, after it said it had entered into a $145 million worldwide license and partnership agreement with AstraZeneca PLC to develop and market its smoking cessation therapy, dubbed Eolas Orexin-1 Receptor Antagonist (EORA).

The deal includes payments for upfront, clinical and regulatory milestone metrics, as well as future royalties on commercial sales.

"We are happy to be partnering with AstraZeneca on our EORA program for their scientific, clinical, regulatory, and commercial expertise. Our two companies share a vision for greatly improving the lives of patients affected by addiction and other neurological disorders," said Albert Man, chief executive officer of Eolas Therapeutics, in a statement.

The program in question, EORA, has long been floated as a valuable asset for whichever Big Pharma could find the right price for it, because it has already received a Blueprint Neurotherapeutics (BPN) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the development of the program from the preclinical stage through Phase I clinical trials.

"We are also proud to be the first active NIH Blueprint Neurotherapeutics program to bridge the gap from concept to commercial licensing,” said Man. “The BPN has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in the development of our therapeutic program."

British drugmaker AstraZeneca said that for their part, the company sees the Eolas deal as a new component to its neuroscience research.

"We are pleased to enter into this novel partnership with Eolas and the NIH Blueprint Neurotherapeutics program on the orexin-1 receptor antagonist program,” said John Dunlop, head of the AstraZeneca Neuroscience Innovative Medicines (iMed) unit. “This collaboration is a great example of our unique approach to Neuroscience drug discovery and development, partnering to advance the most exciting scientific opportunities in areas of high unmet medical need."

The new partnership is only the latest of what has been a string of recent deals done by AstraZeneca to broaden its reach and pipeline assets.

In mid-May, AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) said will shell out $285 million to create a new drug manufacturing site in Sodertalje, Sweden, as the company attempts to crank out drugs to be used in clinical trials. The plant will bring 150 to 250 “highly skilled” new jobs to AstraZeneca by 2019.

The company already has a manufacturing facility in Sodertalje, which is its largest site for producing capsules and tablets. But with a renewed interest in injectables, particularly biotech drugs, it has become clear AstraZeneca is intent on nurturing what now comprises half of its total pipeline.

The new Swedish site is slated to be creating finished products for commercial use once by 2019, when it is fully functional, and will focus on the filling and packaging of protein therapeutics.

“This is a strategically important investment for AstraZeneca to support the accelerating development of biotech medicines, which now make up around half of our pipeline,” said Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer, in a statement. “We expect to bring a significantly increased number of new specialty care medicines to patients in the coming years, driven in large part by biologics. This new plant will give us greater capacity and flexibility to handle clinical trials, and will also play an important role in our future commercial production."

The company’s facilities in the area are located in Snäckviken and Gärtuna, which are also the headquarters for AstraZeneca’s Nordic-Baltic marketing company. Around 3,800 employees, with 35 percent of AstraZeneca’s total sales value coming from its Swedish operation. In 2013, AstraZeneca’s exports of medicines from Sweden totaled $4.74 billion, or around 3.5 percent of total Swedish exports.

Last week AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) said it will also be re-upping its commitment to personalized healthcare, saying Wednesday that it has two new projects in the works that will focus on heart disease and respiratory illness, a departure from the area’s usual focus on cancer treatments.

The first of these will take place in partnership with Montreal Heart Institute which will search the genomes of up to 80,000 patients for genes associated with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The second comes per a new deal with Abbott Laboratories for a diagnostic test to accompany an experimental asthma drug, in order to find patients who might benefit from AstraZeneca’s Phase III antibody drug tralokinumab.

The samples parsed by the MHI will include both tissue and blood samples which have been collected over a period of 12 years by AstraZeneca under informed consent from patients who have entered clinical trials to test cardiovascular or diabetes treatments.

Specialists in the field lauded the decision, saying the advances made in recent years make now an ideal window to start creating “companion diagnostics.”

"The time is now right to extend the personalized healthcare approach and the benefits it brings to all of our therapy areas, "Ruth March, who heads the initiative at AstraZeneca, told reporters. "Up to now the science of personalized healthcare has been slower to reach those common disease areas such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease."

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