Vertex Pharmaceuticals (MA) in Licensing Pact Potentially Worth $1.5 Billion With Alios BioPharma to Expand Hepatitis Pipeline
Published: Jun 13, 2011
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (Nasdaq: VRTX) and Alios BioPharma, Inc. today announced an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement that will add two distinct nucleotide analogues to Vertex’s hepatitis C portfolio. The compounds, which were discovered by Alios and are known as ALS-2200 and ALS-2158, have shown in in vitro studies to be potent inhibitors of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) polymerase, an enzyme essential for replication of the virus. The addition of these compounds provides Vertex with multiple opportunities to develop potential, new, all-oral combination regimens for chronic hepatitis C. Vertex expects ALS-2200 and ALS-2158 to enter clinical development later this year. “We are excited to begin working with Vertex, as we believe that the Alios nucleotide analogues provide an important opportunity to improve patient care in hepatitis C,” said Lawrence M. Blatt, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Alios BioPharma. “For more than a decade, Vertex has been a leader in the development of new approaches for treating hepatitis C, and together we have the potential to create an all-oral, interferon-free, combination therapy that could improve the safety, efficacy and ease of administration for patients. We look forward to initiating clinical development later this year.” “The recent approval of INCIVEK was a milestone in hepatitis C care, and today’s announcement underscores our long-term commitment to further improving the treatment of this disease with new combinations of medicines,” said Peter Mueller, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Executive Vice President of Global Research and Development at Vertex. “Alios has discovered anti-HCV nucleotides that have the potential to be leading agents in hepatitis C. Based on impressive in vitro data, we look forward to evaluating ALS-2200 and ALS-2158 together and in combination with our approved and investigational hepatitis C medicines with the goal of creating a highly potent all-oral regimen in the years ahead.” About ALS-2200 and ALS-2158 ALS-2200 and ALS-2158, currently in preclinical development, are highly potent nucleotide analogues that appear in in vitro and non-clinical studies to have a high barrier to drug resistance and the potential to be dosed once-daily. Both compounds are designed to inhibit the replication of the hepatitis C virus by acting on the NS5B polymerase. Each compound has its own unique mechanism of action, which supports the potential for developing these compounds together as a dual nucleotide regimen and as part of combination therapy regimens with Vertex’s other approved and investigational medicines for chronic hepatitis C, including INCIVEKTM (telaprevir), an FDA-approved hepatitis C protease inhibitor, and VX-222, an investigational hepatitis C non-nucleoside polymerase inhibitor. Data from in vitro studies showed that both ALS-2200 and ALS-2158 had a synergistic effect when combined together and with INCIVEK and VX-222. Additionally, in those in vitro studies,both compounds showed antiviral activity across all genotypes, or forms, of the hepatitis C virus, including genotypes more prevalent outside of the U.S. Pan-genotypic compounds for hepatitis C have the potential to be used across a broad range of people with hepatitis C worldwide. As part of this agreement, Vertex gains worldwide rights to both compounds, further enabling the company to potentially expand development and commercialization efforts in hepatitis C to areas outside North America over the coming years. The agreement also includes a research program that will focus on the discovery of additional nucleotide analogues that act on the hepatitis C polymerase. Vertex will have the option to select compounds for development emerging from the research program. Future Development Plans: Alios and Vertex plan to initiate clinical development of each compound in the fourth quarter of 2011, which is expected to include studies of the compounds in healthy volunteers followed by short-duration safety and viral kinetic studies in people with hepatitis C. The goal of the first clinical studies of these compounds is to generate data to enable the initiation of Phase 2 studies as early as the end of 2012. These Phase 2 studies are expected to evaluate multiple combination regimens of ALS-2200, ALS-2158, INCIVEK and VX-222. The combination studies would be designed to generate sustained viral response (SVR or viral cure) data. Additional details on the clinical development program for ALS-2200 and ALS-2158 will be provided later in 2011 upon initiation of the first clinical study. Terms of the Transaction As part of the agreement, Alios will receive a $60 million up-front payment from Vertex for the worldwide rights to ALS-2200 and ALS-2158. Vertex is responsible for development costs related to ALS-2200 and ALS-2158 and will also provide research funding to Alios. In addition, Alios would be eligible to receive research and development milestone payments up to $715 million if both compounds are approved. Vertex expects to pay approximately $35 million in development milestones in 2011. Alios is also eligible to receive up to $750 million in sales milestones on sales of all approved medicines under the collaboration. The agreement also includes tiered royalties on product sales. Important Information About INCIVEKTM (telaprevir) tablets Indication INCIVEKTM (telaprevir) is a prescription medicine used with the medicines peginterferon alfa and ribavirin to treat chronic (lasting a long time) hepatitis C genotype 1 infection in adults with stable liver problems, who have not been treated before or who have failed previous treatment. It is not known if INCIVEK is safe and effective in children under 18 years of age. IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION INCIVEK should always be taken in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. Ribavirin may cause birth defects or death of an unborn baby. Therefore, you should not take INCIVEK combination treatment if you are pregnant or may become pregnant, or if you are a man with a sexual partner who is pregnant. INCIVEK and other medicines can affect each other and can also cause side effects that can be serious or life threatening. There are certain medicines you cannot take with INCIVEK combination treatment. Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements. INCIVEK can cause serious side effects including rash and anemia. The most common side effects of INCIVEK include itching, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, anal or rectal problems, taste changes and tiredness. There are other possible side effects of INCIVEK, and side effects associated with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin also apply to INCIVEK combination treatment. Tell your healthcare provider about any side effect that bothers you or doesn’t go away.