Astellas to pay Aquinox $25M upfront for regional rights to phase 3 inflammatory pain drug

Astellas is paying $25 million upfront and up to $130 million in milestones for certain rights to rosiptor. (Astellas)

Astellas is paying Aquinox Pharmaceuticals $25 million upfront for regional rights to rosiptor. The deal gives Astellas the right to develop the phase 3 SHIP1 activator in Japan and certain other nations in Asia.

Aquinox thinks rosiptor can reduce inflammation and associated pain by dialing down the PI3K cellular signaling pathway, which is linked to the concentration of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules in tissues. A midphase trial of the drug in patients with bladder pain syndrome/interstitial cystitis (BPS/IC) missed its primary endpoint in 2015. But Aquinox still moved into phase 3 in the indication.

Enrollment in the phase 3 is now complete and Aquinox expects to have top-line data in the third quarter. While waiting on that critical readout, Aquinox has cashed in on the value of the drug in some countries in Asia Pacific.

Astellas is paying $25 million upfront and up to $130 million in milestones for the exclusive rights to rosiptor in all diseases in Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia. China and India are the notable absentees from the list of countries covered by the deal.

Aquinox is set to receive up to $60 million as Astellas clears development milestones. The remaining $70 million is tied to commercial milestones. Astellas is also on the hook for royalties.

Landing the deal gives Aquinox a potential ongoing source of income from a drug that has been on the ropes during its path through the clinic. Aquinox’s stock entered the doldrums in 2015 when it reported the back-to-back failures of rosiptor in midphase BPS/IC and COPD trials. Later that year, Aquinox added a phase 2 mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis trial to its list of failures. 

Success against secondary endpoints enabled rosiptor to bounce back in BPS/IC, leading to the phase 3 trial that is nearing completion. It also led to Astellas’ belief that the drug has a future. 

“The agreement fits with our strategy to deliver innovative drugs in therapeutic areas with high unmet medical needs. Rosiptor has a novel mechanism of action, activation of SHIP1,” said Naoki Okamura, chief strategy officer at Astellas, in a statement.