Jazz flexes deal chops, paying Sumitomo $50M for ex-Asia rights to early-phase narcolepsy prospect

Jazz Pharmaceuticals is continuing its double-time business development pace, with the company inking its third deal to license or divest an asset in the past five weeks. Sumitomo Pharma is the latest company to occupy the other side of the deal table, agreeing to grant Jazz rights to its narcolepsy prospect.

Sumitomo took DSP-0187 into a phase 1 trial in healthy volunteers late last year in the belief the drug candidate can improve excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy by activating orexin signals in patients with orexin-deficient narcolepsy. Based on its preclinical assessments, Sumitomo thinks the compound may be more efficacious than existing drugs and be effective in other daytime sleepiness disorders.  

Jazz is paying $50 million upfront for the rights to the oral orexin-2 receptor agonist in the U.S., Europe and other markets outside of Japan, China and other Asia-Pacific countries. Sumitomo is also in line to pocket development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments of up to $1.1 billion.

The deal sees DSP-0187, a molecule that Jazz has named JZP441, slot into a sleep franchise that features Xyrem, a formulation of sodium oxybate approved for the treatment of sudden muscle weakness and excessive daytime sleepiness in patients with narcolepsy.  

"Orexin agonism is an exciting area of sleep disorder research and an approach that may be complementary to oxybate therapy. We believe that DSP-0187 has the potential to advance the treatment of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders based on its profile," Rob Iannone, M.D., global head of research and development at Jazz, said in a statement. 

Based on the findings of the 64-subject phase 1 trial Sumitomo is running in Japan, Jazz expects to rapidly advance the drug candidate into clinical trials in the U.S. and Europe. The studies will establish Jazz as a player in a space that has attracted the attention of companies including Takeda.

Takeda took an intravenous orexin-2 receptor agonist into the clinic back in 2017, only to shift its focus to its pipeline of oral candidates. TAK-994 led the oral pipeline, until a safety signal led Takeda to stop two trials of the candidate recently and drove the drugmaker to pivot again, this time to the oral phase 1 prospect TAK-861. The setbacks mean that, despite Takeda’s multiyear history with the mechanism, Jazz is well placed in the race to market.