Astria scratches dealmaking itch, paying Ichnos $15M to join eczema race led by Amgen, Sanofi

Ichnos Sciences has finally found a buyer for its OX40 eczema program. Astria Therapeutics has taken the other side of the deal, paying $15 million upfront to secure a spot at the back of a race led by Amgen and Sanofi.

New Jersey-based Ichnos has been talking about partnering its OX40 work for almost as long as it has existed, having made the program available (PDF) for out-licensing the year after it spun out of Glenmark in 2019. Over the years it has sought a partner, Ichnos has seen Sanofi acquire an OX40 candidate in its $1.1 billion takeover of Kymab and Amgen pay Kyowa Kirin $400 million upfront to enter the space. 

Now, Ichnos has landed a deal—but failed to command the sort of prices paid by those Big Pharmas. The structure of the agreement, which is worth $15 million upfront, $20 million in clinical milestones and $285 million in regulatory and commercial paydays, reflects Astria’s preferred asset. 

While Ichnos wrapped up a phase 2 trial of its lead OX40-targeting candidate telazorlimab in 2021, that candidate barely gets a mention in Astria’s statement to disclose the deal. Astria is licensing the full OX40 portfolio, but its focus is on STAR-0310, a preclinical program that is forecast to enter human testing early in 2025. 

The timeline puts Astria years behind the front-runners. Amgen has started seven phase 3 clinical trials of its candidate, rocatinlimab, over the past 16 months, while Sanofi top-lined positive phase 2b data in June. In contrast, the first clinical data on STAR-0310 in healthy volunteers aren't expected until the third quarter of 2025, by which time Amgen could have phase 3 data on rocatinlimab.

Astria’s decision to focus on a preclinical program, rather than push telazorlimab into late-phase studies, could give it a differentiated candidate. The biotech sees STAR-0310 as a best-in-class prospect, pointing to its use of half-life extension technology, which could reduce dosing frequency, and early evidence of affinity, safety and tolerability to make its case.