Pfizer dumps rights to RA drugs from biotech Ablynx

Belgian biotech Ablynx took a hit this morning after Pfizer ($PFE) let go of its rights to the smaller firm's nanobody compounds for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Pfizer dumped the program as part of an ongoing effort to streamline its R&D pipeline.

The decision comes as Pfizer advances its late-stage oral RA drug tofacitinib, a JAK inhibitor that has been highlighted as one of the brightest prospects the Big Pharma has in development. With the potential to treat the autoimmune disease without injections of TNF drugs, tofacitinib is a favorite to gain blockbuster status if it gets approved.

Pfizer inherited Ablynx's RA treatments--which are protein-based treatments that are presumably injected into patients--in its $68 billion buyout of Wyeth in 2009. For its nanobody drugs, the Belgian firm tapped the genes of camels and llamas, Reuters reported. Ablynx says it's now taking stock of its options for a way forward with the assets Pfizer no longer wants, including ATN-103, which is in midstage trials, and PF-05230905, now in Phase I development. Under the firm's agreement with Pfizer, it has to share milestones of up to $50 million with Pfizer and pay royalties to the drug giant on any sales of the products.

"We have enjoyed a very productive collaboration with Ablynx," Dr. Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, Pfizer's head of biotherapeutics R&D, said in a statement. "Our decision to return this programme to Ablynx was made as part of Pfizer's portfolio review process. We wish Ablynx success with ATN-103 and PF-05230905."

Despite those kind words, Ablynx's shares fell 17.3% today on the news about the end of its Pfizer collaboration.

- here's the company's release
- see what Reuters reported
- and GEN 's coverage

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