Roche sheds clutch of in-licensed drugs in pipeline cull

The Roche Tower (Roche)

Roche has removed (PDF) a handful of programs from its phase 1 and 2 pipeline as part of a periodic clean out. The most advanced drug to get the chop is RG6125, an anti-cadherin 11 antibody that entered a phase 2 rheumatoid arthritis trial last year.

Switzerland’s Roche, like its peers, pulls programs from its pipeline every quarter, typically without providing much of an explanation. That practice was evident in the third-quarter results, which saw Roche quietly shunt some programs off its list of active trials. In doing so, Roche has deprived some biotechs and investors of a chance to receive hundreds of millions in dollars in milestones.

Roche acquired the rights to RG6125 in 2015 when it paid $105 million upfront—and committed several times that it milestones—to acquire Adheron Therapeutics. The drug, then known as SDP051, had already cleared phase 1 at Adheron, but progress has stalled at Roche.


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Having started a phase 2 trial of the drug last year, Roche has now dropped the program. The action has implications for Adheron’s investors and British life science company Abzena, which contributed technology to the development of the antibody.

RG6125 was the only phase 2 drug to get the chop. Roche cut deeper into the phase 1 pipeline, shedding a handful of programs. The list of discarded phase 1 programs includes RG6029, an oral inhibitor of NaV1.7 that Roche licensed from Xenon. Other partnered programs affected by the cull include Array BioPharma’s checkpoint kinase 1 inhibitor RG7741 and Novimmune’s IL-13-IL-17 bispecific RG7990.

Roche first placed bets on all those drugs years ago. The Xenon deal dates back to the end of 2011. Roche’s Genentech paid Array $28 million for the rights to RG7741 earlier that year. And the deal with Novimmune is older still, dating back to a deal it struck with Genentech in 2010. 

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