Cholesterol-focused Esperion loses appetite for oral PCSK9 collab with Serometrix

Esperion Therapeutics is ending an R&D collaboration with Serometrix centered on the former's oral PCSK candidate, two and a half years after paying $12.5 million to partner up. 

The news was tucked into Esperion’s quarterly earnings report issued Tuesday morning, with the Ann Arbor-based company saying that it had relayed the decision to Sermetrix in early July and that the collaboration will formally terminate on August 5. Serometrix had been developing early-stage scaffolds that could contribute to Esperion’s oral, small molecule PCSK9, but Esperion has decided to advance work on its own scaffolding suite. 

Molecular scaffolds act as a home base for signaling programs to assemble and direct biological pathways; if signaling proteins are your body’s crossing guards, then scaffolds are the sidewalks where they work. 

The deal was first announced in January 2021. As well as the upfront payment, Serometrix stood to gain an undisclosed amount of milestone payments.

Injectable PCSK9 drugs have been a top option by pharmas to treat high cholesterol, with Amgen’s Repatha and Sanofi and Regeneron’s Praluent leading the way. But like Esperion, the next-generation candidates are expected to be oral options, which in theory should improve uptake thanks to ease and simplicity.

Merck & Co.’s option, MK-0616, was recently found to reduce particular kinds of cholesterol levels by up to 61% compared to placebo. But not every company is pinning its hopes on the drug class, with Ionis culling its own PCSK9 med after AstraZeneca walked away from the collaboration in November 2019. 

Esperion brought in $25.8 million in sales in the second quarter thanks to its two approved treatments for high cholesterol, Nexlizet and Nexletol. But expenses continue to tower over revenue, with the company recording nearly $50 million in net loss for the quarter, albeit a smaller margin than the $66 million loss reported in the second quarter of 2022.