Purdue Pharma taps TetraGenetics for ion channel-focused pain treatments in $273M discovery pact

The collaboration will focus largely on the use of TetraGenetics’ TetraExpress system, which provides recombinant human ion channels for high-yield biologics discovery. (Getty/RossHelen)

Purdue Pharma’s newly formed clinical research subsidiary, Imbrium Therapeutics, has tapped TetraGenetics and its antibody discovery platform to help it develop new, non-opioid-based biologics for treating chronic pain.

TetraGenetics is set to receive up to $25 million upfront—in a combination of licensing fees and payments for materials and full-time equivalents for the three-year project—and could get up to an additional $248 million based on certain milestones.

In return, the company will perform discovery and lead-selection work to provide a series of monoclonal antibodies as potential long-term therapies for pain. Those assets will be transferred to Imbrium for clinical testing after the completion of IND-enabling studies, TetraGenetics President and CEO Douglas Kahn told FierceBiotech.


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The collaboration will focus largely on the use of TetraGenetics’ TetraExpress system, which provides recombinant human ion channels for high-yield biologics discovery, as well as small molecule drug modeling and design.

Ion channels—the cell membrane proteins integral for transmitting nerve impulses and pain signals throughout the body—have been largely difficult to drug, due to limited target areas and a lack of available testing material. TetraGenetics’ platform grows large numbers of channels on microorganisms, and purifies them for drug discovery activities.

RELATED: Opioid maker Purdue deep-sixes sales team amid mass layoff and mounting legal woes

“Ion channel antibody discovery holds great promise for the treatment of chronic pain, and we are pleased to have the resources and support of Imbrium to advance this important program,” Kahn said in a statement.

Established by Purdue just this year, the nascent Imbrium plans to develop treatments for CNS disorders, cancer therapies and non-opioid painkillers. Its pipeline already lists five preclinical assets from discovery and development collaborations aimed at different indications, including bladder pain, chemotherapy-induced and neuropathic pain, and chronic lower back pain.

About this time last February, Purdue—the manufacturer of OxyContin, as well as Butrans and Hysingla ER—announced that it would no longer promote opioid painkillers to prescribers and physicians, and slashed its sales team in the process. Dozens of states and municipalities are suing Purdue and charging it with facilitating the opioid crisis.

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