Pierre Fabre snags option on Piqur program in skin cancers

Employment contract
The deal gives Pierre Fabre an option to license skin cancer candidates

Pierre Fabre has struck a deal to develop dermatological formulations of Piqur Therapeutics’ PI3K/mTOR inhibitor PQR309. The agreement gives Pierre Fabre the option to enter into exclusive negotiations for the rights to formulations resulting from the collaboration in certain skin cancers.

In the first stage of the pact, Pierre Fabre, a large private French health and cosmetics company, will combine its dermatology experience with Piqur’s lead candidate and PI3K/mTOR inhibitor knowhow to create new experimental formulations. The partners will evaluate these formulations, setting the stage for the second phase of the pact when Pierre Fabre will decide whether it wants to strike a deal to add the candidates to its pipeline.

The deal marries Pierre Fabre’s desire to look outside its walls for innovation with the core strength of its R&D team. Faced with dwindling sales, Pierre Fabre committed to axing 31% of its R&D workforce late in 2014, but this still left it with an organization notable for its bridging of dermatology and oncology. The Piqur deal is designed to tap into this mix of capabilities.

“This collaboration with Piqur marks an additional milestone in our partnering strategy. Combining our capabilities will accelerate the drug discovery process and bringing forward transformative therapies for patients,” Pierre Fabre Pharmaceuticals R&D Chief Laurent Audoly said in a statement.

For Piqur, the deal is an opportunity to add new indications to the list targeted by its lead program. Piqur is developing PQR309 internally as a treatment for lymphomas and solid tumors, and has moved the the PI3K/mTOR inhibitor into phase 2 in both indications. The advance of the program is underpinned by Piqur’s knowledge of PI3K/mTOR—the cornerstone of its activities and target of Novartis’ once-hyped NVP-BEZ235—and the largesse of backers including Versant Ventures.

What Piqur lacks is dermatology knowhow. In Pierre Fabre it has gained a partner that can address this gap and potentially open new avenues for the use of PQR309.