Vifor Pharma Teams with Evotec to Form Joint Venture Focused on Kidney Diseases

Kidney Disease

Swiss company Vifor Pharma and Germany’s Evotec AG launched a joint venture to focus on the discovery and development of new therapies for kidney diseases. Vifor picks up external R&D capabilities for its own nephrology pipeline and Evotec gains a commercial partner via outlicensing all kidney disease assets that are developed from the joint venture.

Under the terms of the deal, the joint venture will analyze the clinical data provided by Evotec, which is utilizing a UK kidney biobank, NURTuRE. They hope to identify new targets for kidney therapies and improve existing product profiles of its pipeline. Evotec plans to leverage its drug discovery and development capabilities, using Vifor’s commercial platform to develop a pipeline of nephrology programs.

Once clinical trials for the newly created pipeline are finished, any products will be outlicensed to Vifor for registration and commercialization.

Vifor is providing 25 million euros for initial funding. Evotec’s proprietary PanHunter bioinformatics platform, as well as the data sets from NURTuRE, are expected to generate promising leads. Clinical and commercial expenses are expected to be split equally between the two companies, with opt-out rights at every stage based on a profit share deal.

“The creation of the joint venture will enable us to identify new targets for renal therapies to bolster our pipeline,” said Stefan Schulze, chief operating officer and president of the Executive Committee at Vifor. “We will now have access to Evotec’s best-in-class drug discovery as well as preclinical capabilities without having to expand our own R&D infrastructure. By drawing on the unique strengths of Vifor Pharma and Evotec, this joint venture will create a powerful research platform and contribute to establish Vifor Pharma as a global leader in nephrology.”

Earlier this week, Vifor announced a commercial partnership with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson company. They will jointly commercialize Invokana (canagliflozin) in the U.S. to treat diabetic kidney disease (DKD) and decrease the risk of hospitalization for heart failure in patients with type 2 diabetes and diabetic kidney disease.

The drug is already available in the U.S. to decrease the risk of major cardiovascular events and improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Janssen submitted a supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) for Invokana to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for diabetic kidney disease in type 2 diabetes patients after the results of the Phase III CREDENCE trial. The study was halted early because it met the prespecified criteria for efficacy, showing a 30% decrease in the risk of the primary composite endpoint, made up of end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), doubling of serum creatinine and renal or cardiovascular death. The FDA gave the drug a thumbs-up for the new indication on September 30.

Of the joint venture with Vifor, Cord Dohrmann, chief scientific officer at Evotec, said, “We are excited to be entering into this highly complementary joint venture with Vifor Pharma. The partnership will help us maximize the potential of our early-stage target identification and candidate selection platform in nephrology by creating a joint company with one of the world leaders in nephrology clinical development and commercialization. This will allow Evotec to participate in the value generation of clinical development.”

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