Dermavant inks $330M deal for GSK's phase 3-ready psoriasis drug

A new CSO isn't all Dermavant got from GlaxoSmithKline: The Roivant unit has picked up the rights to the British drugmaker's dermatology drug tapinarof in a deal worth up to £250 million ($330 million). The asset is poised to enter phase 3 in psoriasis and atopic dermatitis and is also in preclinical development in a "back-up" program. 

Dermavant handed over £150 million ($198 million) up front, with a potential £100 million ($132 million) in development milestone payments up for grabs. Under the deal, slated to close in the second half of this year, Dermavant will assume all global rights to tapinarof, except in China, GSK said in a statement. 

Tapinarof, a therapeutic aryl hydrocarbon receptor modulating agent (TAMA), has been tested as a topical treatment in more than 800 patients in phase 1 and 2. In a dose-ranging study involving 227 adults with plaque psoriasis, tapinarof brought about "clinically meaningful, dose-dependent improvements." After 12 weeks, about half of the patients receiving a once-daily dose of either tapinarof 1% or 0.5% had a 75% or greater improvement in a psoriasis severity score. Only 5% of placebo patients hit this mark. 

“We have taken a strategic decision to divest or partner medicines in our R&D portfolio that are a better fit for other companies allowing us to concentrate our resources on other promising assets," said John Lepore, GSK senior vice president, R&D pipeline. 

"Tapinarof has the potential to be a first-in-class therapy and a convenient, once-daily topical agent that postpones or potentially eliminates the need for systemic treatment in two of the most common dermatological conditions, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. We are confident that Dermavant is well positioned to progress rapidly with the tapinarof development programme into phase III and registration.” 

GSK's move comes soon after it offloaded its rare gene therapies to Orchard Therapeutics. Its reasoning for that deal was much the same—while the British pharma has “been heavily invested in this area, we believe there is someone else who can best ensure the commercial availability of these medicines for patients."