Pfizer, Flagship name first target for multibillion-dollar collaboration: obesity

Pfizer and Flagship Pioneering have settled on the first target for their billion-dollar, multiprogram collaboration, and it’s not exactly a surprise: The New York Big Pharma giant will work with the venture creation firm’s ProFound Therapeutics to develop new obesity drugs.

No financial details of the collaboration were released. However, previously the companies committed $50 million each for the opportunity to develop 10 programs. Each successful drug from the partnership could be worth as much as $700 million in various milestones and payments.

"Since launching this unique alliance between Flagship and Pfizer we have been working together to rapidly build out a portfolio of exploration programs," said Paul Biondi, Flagship Executive Partner and President of Pioneering Medicines, in a Wednesday statement. "This agreement will enable ProFound to explore how its pioneering platform can tackle unmet need in obesity. It is an exciting milestone for the partnership and the pipeline of programs we are developing to deliver potential new and transformational medicines."

ProFound will use its ProFoundry Platform along with Flagship’s Pioneering Medicines to find new proteins and determine if they can be used for therapeutics, specifically obesity, the new market with megablockbuster potential. 

The biotech will handle early discovery and then hand things off to Pfizer to advance the research programs, through the existing Flagship partnership.

"We are thrilled to be part of the Flagship and Pfizer partnership and to collaborate with Pioneering Medicines to discover and validate novel proteins that have the potential to lead to innovative, first-in-class medicines for patients with obesity," said ProFound CEO John Lepore, M.D., who also serves as Flagship Pioneering CEO-Partner.

Pfizer is in a come-from-behind battle in the competitive obesity market that is well-led by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. Early efforts to find a lead obesity candidate have been slow for Pfizer, although Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten, M.D., Ph.D., told Fierce Biotech in February that the company is hoping to use its expertise in small molecules to break through.

Investors are eager to know more about how Pfizer will crack into the obesity market and today’s agreement with ProFound seems to be the first public move to gain more external resources for the beat.