Gilead Sciences, Inc. Snaps Up Liver Disease Treatment from Phenex Pharmaceuticals AG in $470 Million Deal

Published: Jan 06, 2015

Gilead Sciences, Inc. Snaps Up Liver Disease Treatment From Phenex Pharmaceuticals AG in $470 Million Deal
January 6, 2015
By Krystle Vermes, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

California-based Gilead Sciences, Inc. , announced today that it has signed an agreement with Phenex Pharmaceuticals AG to purchase the company’s FarnesoidX receptor program. Gilead is set to pay Phenex upfront payments and money for potential milestones that may be worth up to $470 million.

The program is comprised of small molecule FXR agonists for the treatment of liver diseases. Nonalcoholicsteatohepatitis, which results in inflammation and excessive fat accumulation in the liver, is one of the targets of the FXR program.

“The acquisition of Phenex’s FXR program represents an important opportunity to accelerate Gilead’s efforts to develop new treatment options that address fibrotic liver diseases,” said Norbert Bischofberger, Gilead’s executive vice president of research and development and chief scientific officer. “We look forward to working closely with Phenex’s research and development team to advance the FXR program into clinical development as quickly as possible to explore its potential in areas of significant unmet need.”

FXR acts as a nuclear hormone receptor that regulates bile acid, lipid and glucose homeostasis, which can reduce inflammation and potentially prevent liver fibrosis.

“This agreement represents a significant milestone for our company and for the field of liver disease research,” said Claus Kremoser, CEO of Phenex Pharmaceuticals AG. “After 15 years of research, FXR is now one of the few clinically validated targets for NASH and we are delighted that Gilead will be continuing the research necessary to more fully realize its potential for advanced liver disease.”

A Focus on the Liver
Gilead Sciences made headlines throughout 2014 for its sofosbuvir tablets, marketed as Sovaldi, for the treatment of hepatitis C. However, its combination drug containingledipasvir and sofosbuvir, known as Harvoni, has made significant strides as well.

On Nov. 11, Gilead announced the results of Phase 2 and Phase 3 studies that looked at the use of Harvoni for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. Specifically, the studies examined how Harvoni could impact patients with limited or no treatment options, including those with cirrhosis.

“Chronic hepatitis C patients with advanced liver disease are among the most difficult to cure and traditionally have had limited or no treatment options,” said Bischofberger, at the time of the announcement. “The data presented this week demonstrate that Harvoni provides high cure rates for patients with advanced liver disease, as well as for those who failed prior treatment with other antivirals, including sofosbuvir-based regimens.”

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