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Jazz strikes up a $120M Concert Pharma collaboration on next-gen Xyrem

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Concert Pharmaceuticals CEO Roger Tung

Jazz Pharmaceuticals ($JAZZ) has stepped up to grab the worldwide rights to a tweaked version of the narcolepsy drug Xyrem from Lexington, MA-based Concert Pharmaceuticals, a biotech which has been making a splash with its deuterium-modification approach for next-gen therapeutics. 

The deal bears a number of similarities with a pact that Concert struck a year ago with Avanir ($AVNR), which inked a $200 million pact on a new and improved version of its treatment for neurological and psychiatric disorders. In this case, Jazz gets the worldwide rights on a drug that promises to put a fresh twist on sodium oxybate, the active ingredient in Xyrem.

"It's a great drug for those patients," says Concert CEO Roger Tung, "but it's not the most convenient drug in the world." Patients typically take the liquid therapy twice at night, with a four-hour interval between doses, due to the short half-life of the drug. But Concert investigators found that deuterium could stabilize the treatment, offering patients the chance of getting more convenient dosing and the kind of night's rest that helps control symptoms of narcolepsy like excessive daytime drowsiness.

Concert actively considered going at the R&D alone, says Tung, but given the heavy controlled substance they were working with in a field in which Jazz has considerable experience, it made more sense to partner on this while pursuing their mid-stage program for diabetic kidney disease.

Tung says the partners are keeping silent about the upfront payment coming from Jazz, but he told FierceBiotech that Jazz committed to up to $120 million in milestones and tiered double digit royalties for any approved product. Concert will handle the work through Phase I, with Jazz stepping in for the rest of the clinical program. The CEO also says he wouldn't be surprised if Concert signs another such development partnership sometime over the next 12 months.

In the meantime, the next big event for Concert will likely by the first mid-stage data reveal for its lead drug, CTP-499, which is designed to slow kidney damage. The biotech ended up enrolling 182 patients for the Phase II. Top-line results for the drug are expected in the second half.

- here's the press release

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