New startup Vitaeris licenses interleukin-6 candidate from Alder


After launching last month, Vitaeris has got its hands on a new inflammatory disease candidate from Alder BioPharmaceuticals--while the Bothell, WA, biotech’s CEO has got a place on Vitaeris’ board and an equity stake.

Alder ($ALDR) has licensed clazakizumab to the Vancouver, British Columbia-based biotech, which gains the exclusive worldwide rights to the early-stage candidate. Clazakizumab (formerly ALD518), a monoclonal antibody originally discovered by Alder, is designed to block interleukin-6 (IL-6).

It has been tested in several midstage trials, most recently in a Phase IIb study which showed it met its primary endpoint in a dose-ranging test in patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis who have experienced a poor response to TNF inhibitors.

But Vitaeris, which came into being in April, said it wants to go beyond the natural targets of the drugs, i.e., rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. “Building on the promising safety and efficacy data from completed Phase II studies in these diseases, Vitaeris is exploring potential innovative applications for blocking IL-6 biology in diseases characterized by chronic inflammation,” the embryonic biotech said--although it did not go into further detail on specific targets.

Exact financial terms of the deal were--as is becoming increasingly common--not disclosed. However, as part of the licensing deal, Alder’s CEO Dr. Randall Schatzman has joined the new the biotech’s board, while his company has also taken an equity stake in Vitaeris. The Canadian company is also in line receive royalties and certain other payments should the deal go well.

A number of Big Pharmas have already hitched their trailer to the IL-6 wagon, with Sanofi ($SNY) and partner Regeneron ($REGN), along with Glaxo ($GSK) and its partner Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), all closing in on FDA approvals in what all four see as being blockbuster treatments.

“As a best-in-class anti-IL-6 monoclonal antibody, clazakizumab holds significant potential as a treatment for inflammatory diseases, and we will leverage the robust clinical trial data in hand to chart its development path,” said Noel Hall, co-founder and chairman of Vitaeris.

Alder announced last year it was seeking a partner for its IL-6 drug after its former partner Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) bailed on its deal with the biotech, first signed back in 2009.

The biotech was voted in the Fierce 15 in 2010, before it went public in 2014 with a discounted IPO.

Dr. Schatzman added: “We are very pleased to continue clazakizumab’s clinical development through the significant expertise represented by Noel Hall as chairman and HBM Healthcare Investments as a founding investor.

“The Vitaeris team is motivated to drive the clazakizumab program forward, and Noel’s more than 25 years of successful drug development experience will be extremely valuable as new indications for this antibody are selected and advanced. We believe that combining this team with clazakizumab’s therapeutic potential advances Alder’s goal of leveraging the extensive clinical safety and efficacy data we have generated on clazakizumab for the potential benefit to both patients and our shareholders.”