Chiesi buys Atopix for clinical-stage asthma pipeline

Chiesi's operation in Italy

Chiesi Farmaceutici has bought Atopix Therapeutics for its pipeline of asthma treatments. The buyout gives Chiesi an orally administered CRTh2 antagonist that Atopix is testing in a Phase II trial of severe eosinophilic asthma patients.

Parma, Italy-based Chiesi has picked up the CRTh2 antagonist in a deal that could be worth upward of €75 million ($80 million) if development, regulatory and commercial milestones are hit.

In return for the outlay, Chiesi is gaining a drug that has a mixed track record in the clinic. For Chiesi and Atopix, the headline data come from an analysis of mild-to-moderate persistent asthmatics with the eosinophilic phenotype. That subgroup analysis associated the CRTh2 antagonist with improved lung function as compared to placebo and encouraged Atopix to hone in on eosinophilic asthma patients for its next study.

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Atopix got that study got underway last year after securing a loan from Silicon Valley Bank. The trial is due to wrap up in September. Imperial College London is also assessing whether the drug, OC459, can stop the common cold from exacerbating asthma symptoms.

The R&D program is undergirded by preclinical data suggesting OC459 inhibits a part of the immune system that involves T-helper 2 cytokines. This mechanism of action puts OC459 in the same general area as GlaxoSmithKline's Nucala, a monoclonal antibody that won FDA approval as a treatment for eosinophilic asthma last year.

Chiesi thinks OC459, or backup candidate ATX2417, could provide relief to patients with eosinophilic asthma without needing to take an injectable biologic.

“The Atopix product candidates have the potential to effectively serve a currently difficult-to-treat and severe patient population with a patient-friendly oral dosage form, and moreover may be significantly cost-effective in the clinical setting,” Chiesi R&D Director Paolo Chiesi said in a statement.

Chiesi’s acquisition of Atopix comes nine months after OC459 suffered a setback in the clinic. Atopix was advancing OC459 as a treatment for atopic dermatitis in parallel to its work in asthma. However, in February the British biotech revealed the candidate had fallen short in a Phase II trial in patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. OC459 performed no better than placebo against the study’s primary and secondary endpoints.

Those data crushed Atopix’s hopes of developing OC459 as a treatment for atopic dermatitis. But, in repositioning OC459 as a pure play respiratory prospect, it also teed up the Chiesi deal. Respiratory diseases are a cornerstone of Chiesi’s business.

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