Fledging biotech AltheRx nabs Ph3 urology program from GSK

Few fledgling biotech companies launch right at the threshold of a Phase III trial. But armed with some unique insights into GlaxoSmithKline's old urology pipeline--slated for termination under the pharma company's restructuring plan--AltheRx is starting out with a well advanced position in the development game.

Using funds from an unnamed backer, the Philadelphia-area biotech has acquired Solabregon from GSK with plans to start a 2,000 patient late-stage study of the drug for overactive bladder in women. And the three founders are also laying the foundation for a Phase IIb study of the drug for irritable bowel syndrome.

The inspiration for the deal came from Eliot Ohlstein, the former senior vice president of the urology and cardiovascular CEDD at GlaxoSmithKline and now the CSO at AltheRx, says CEO Shawn O'Brien.

"Eliot's team had discovered Solabregon at GSK and he was very familiar with it," O'Brien tells FierceBiotech. Due to the decision to shutter its urology work, GSK was looking to sell or license out the program. AltheRx wound up buying the program for an undisclosed amount, adding a potential royalty stream for the big pharma company.

Right now, AltheRx is a virtual company with only the three founders on the staff, says O'Brien. But with the program slated to begin Phase III later this year, they plan to expand the staff to 13. And partnership discussions are under way to line up a collaborator that can capitalize on their work and provide some of the funds needed for the clinical trial work.

O'Brien, a former CEO at two other biotechs--Solstice Neurosciences and Profectus BioSciences--says the upstart biotech had to be innovative in its approach to starting out. "The venture-backed model is broken," says the CEO, with little money available to entrepreneurs. But he's hopeful that the company can do more of these deals, nabbing promising programs being spun out of the big pharma arena.

- here's the AltheRx release