Galderma Pharma has picked up the rights to a midphase atopic dermatitis and pruritus drug from Roche’s ($RHHBY) Chugai Pharmaceutical. The deal gives Galderma an exclusive license to develop and market the drug, the first biologic in its portfolio, in all countries except Japan and Taiwan.
Lausanne, Switzerland-based Galderma is committing to upfront, milestone and royalty payments of an undisclosed amount to gain the rights to the drug, the anti-IL-31 receptor A humanized monoclonal antibody nemolizumab. The addition of nemolizumab to Galderma’s pipeline marks the first time the dermatology specialist has forayed into biologics, a class of products it has eschewed in the past to keep its focus on topical therapies. Chugai will continue to handle manufacturing of the drug.
By broadening its dermatology pipeline into biologics, Galderma is following in the footsteps of Leo Pharma, a fellow European drugmaker that bought its way into injectables earlier this month with a $1 billion (€900 million) deal for AstraZeneca’s ($AZN) tralokinumab. The back-to-back deals position Leo and Galderma to fight for a share of the atopic dermatitis market, a space in which deal making and competition have intensified over the past year.
Both Galderma’s nemolizumab and Leo’s anti-IL-13 antibody tralokinumab are injectable treatments for moderate-to-severe forms of atopic dermatitis. The competition includes dupilumab, an antibody being developed by Regeneron ($REGN) and Sanofi ($SNY). With dupilumab having already delivered Phase III data and being pencilled in to come to market next year, the chasing pack know how high the bar has been set.
Dupilumab, which is designed to inhibit both IL-4 and IL-13, cleared lesions from the skin of more than one-third of people who received it in Phase III trials. The placebo failed to get above 10%. Chugai’s Phase II trial looked at a different endpoint, itchiness. Nemolizumab was linked to a 60% decrease. The placebo arm trended downward 20%. Chugai is currently running a Phase II trial of the drug as a treatment for itching in hemodialysis patients in Japan.
Once the deal with Galderma is complete, Chugai will retain control of the drug in Japan and Taiwan, leaving its new Swiss partner to take up development in the rest of the world.
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