AbbVie spins out a PhII orphan drug to Receptos--with a hook attached

San Diego-based Receptos has snagged a deal to put one of AbbVie's respiratory drugs through a Phase II study, taking on the risk of mid-stage work while securing an option deal that allows AbbVie ($ABBV) the right to step back in if the therapy looks promising enough to take it forward into Phase III.

The IL-13 antibody--now designated RPC4046 by Receptos--will be tested as a potential new therapy for Eosinophilic esophagitis, an orphan disease. "We believe that AbbVie's exceptional track record in immunology will be a strong asset in this collaboration," says Receptos CEO Faheem Hasnain.

Hasnain has a unique perspective on this. He had been CEO of Facet Biotech, which Abbott acquired in 2010 for $450 million.

If AbbVie likes what it sees following discussions with the FDA post-Phase II, it can trigger the option, splitting the cost of the Phase III and taking all the ex-U.S. rights while leaving Receptos with a potentially lucrative co-promotion deal in the U.S.

FierceBiotech queried the company on AbbVie's rationale for spinning out a Phase II asset, especially as the pharma company has been investing heavily in its pipeline in the lead-up to the recent split at Abbott ($ABT). Doesn't the deal imply that AbbVie wants to outsource risk on a marginal product?

Receptos's response, via e-mail: "AbbVie had de-prioritized their respiratory portfolio (including pursuit of RPC4046 in the asthma indication), and was intrigued when Receptos brought forward the scientific rationale and clinical design for proof of concept in EoE, which is a GI-related immunology indication that would complement AbbVie's strong GI franchise. As an orphan Indication, AbbVie was happy to allow external investment to fund the proof of concept study and defer their further investment decision until the program was de-risked."

Risk-sharing deals like this, with biotechs taking on clinical trial work for assets in Big Pharma's pipeline, have become more popular as some of the largest companies have been quicker at prioritizing the work the companies are willing to do in-house.  

- here's the release

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