Ironwood, Protagonist ink peptide discovery deal

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals ($IRWD), 2009 Fierce 15 company, and Protagonist Therapeutics will work together to discover novel peptides for potential development by Ironwood. Under the terms of the agreement, Protagonist will use its DRP technology platform to design peptides against targets identified by Ironwood, which has the right to advance such peptides through preclinical and clinical development, as well as potential commercialization. Ironwood also has made an upfront payment to Protagonist and will fund full-time equivalents for Protagonist's drug discovery activities during the collaboration period.

"This collaboration is a validation of Protagonist's innovative drug discovery technology platform, designed to exploit DRPs as therapeutic agents," says Dinesh Patel, Ph.D., president and CEO of Protagonist. "We have found an ideal partner in Ironwood given their experience with linaclotide, an oral peptide that recently completed the efficacy portion of its Phase 3 program."

Last November, Ironwood and partner Forest Laboratories ($FRX) took another big step toward a new drug application for linaclotide with the announcement that the drug had successfully cleared its second late-stage trial hurdle for irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. The partners are looking to file an NDA for the drug this year.

Protagonist is backed by what Xconomy calls "an unusual set of biotech investors from Australia" and Lilly Ventures. It has raised about $18 million since it was founded in 2006 and was built to make small-molecule and peptide drugs. Not many companies have created big franchises around peptide drugs, but as Xconomy notes, Amylin Pharmaceuticals is an exception.

- get the Ironwood/Protagonist release
- read the Xconomy report