Zealand inks a $402M cardio-metabolic peptide program with Boehringer

Early this year Zealand Pharma and Boehringer Ingelheim agreed to start over on their three-year-old collaboration to develop a GLP-1 diabetes drug after they decided to part ways on a lead program. Now the Danish biotech will ramp up a second preclinical peptide program with the German pharma company aimed at cardio-metabolic diseases.

Like most preclinical deals, this one starts small with a shot at a big payoff at the end of a successful effort. Boehringer is handing over $7.5 million to get started and promising up to $395 million for a successful effort on the first program.

Both companies declined to reveal the exact target, saying only that Boehringer will be responsible for any development work on new therapeutic peptides found in the collaboration. Zealand will also get research funding from Boehringer and tiered royalties on any successful sales. Additional, undisclosed milestones are available for any follow-up peptide programs that come out of the pact.

Success eluded Zealand (Copenhagen: ZEAL) and Boehringer on their first try at drug development. With $510 million in milestones on the line for ZP2929, a once-a-day glucagon/GLP-1 dual agonist that came out of a 2011 R&D pact, the two companies couldn't agree on how to proceed. So they agreed last January to let Zealand keep control of that drug and then try again on another. That parting of the ways might explain why today's release focused heavily on harmony.

"Partnering is key to our business strategy and the relationship with Zealand is a long-term and important one," noted Michel Pairet, Boehringer Ingelheim's senior vice president, corporate division R&D non-clinical, in a statement. "We are, therefore, extremely pleased to enter into this new agreement with Zealand, a company recognised as experts in their field, which will further complement and strengthen our own discovery and development efforts in the area of cardio-metabolic diseases."

- here's the release