German contender chases Pfizer in oral RA drug pursuit

Pfizer ($PFE) isn't alone in the hunt to develop an oral rheumatoid arthritis drug. German biotech 4SC is attracting some attention for its experimental pill that could eventually capture a chunk of the multibillion-dollar market for RA treatments--now controlled by expensive injectable drugs like Enbrel.

4SG still wants to tap some deeper pockets to fund further development of vidofludimus, which is in mid-stage clinical studies. Company CEO Ulrich Dauer told Bloomberg that his company is hunting for a licensing deal as the drug faces a key test with results from a mid-stage study expected by late June.

If all looks good, Big Pharma could swoop in, gain a license to vidofludimus and have a potential oral rival to Pfizer's experimental tofacitinib. Although promising clinical results have made the Pfizer pill a blockbuster hopeful, the drug giant has had to do some explaining about the deaths of four patients who took the drug. Now Pfizer has 4SG nipping at its heels with its oral contender. Equinet analyst Edouard Aubery projects sales of 4SG's pill to reach $1.4 billion if approved as a treatment for both RA and inflammatory bowel disease, Bloomberg reported. But pharmas are likely to be patient for 4SG's drug to show more proof of clinical performance before coming up with big bucks to license the molecule.

"The pharma industry is very hungry for deals that can show the necessary clinical safety and efficacy," Hubert Birner, a partner at the venture firm TVM Capital, told Bloomberg.

- check out Bloomberg's piece