PPD pairs off with Sellas to pick up the pipeline pace

PPD has signed a master service agreement with Swiss biotech Sellas, lending its drug development expertise to the company's efforts to advance a portfolio of treatments.

Under the agreement, PPD will go beyond the standard CRO model of transactional services and step in as a strategic partner, helping Sellas move forward with its two top prospects. A formulation of zolpidem, an already-approved central nervous system drug, is under development for Parkinson's disease and progressive supranuclear palsy, while WT1, the company's cancer vaccine, is targeting acute myeloid leukemia, mesothelioma and multiple myeloma.

Sellas' model involves in-licensing treatments for underserved diseases, whether they be entirely new entities or existing treatments with untapped potential. Zolpidem, long used to treat insomnia, has unexplored applications in other CNS disorders, according to the company, which licensed patents related to a certain mechanism of action. Separately, the biotech has an agreement with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center covering WT1, a cancer vaccine with broad applications, Sellas said.

Now, with PPD in tow, the company is ready to take its top prospects into the clinic, CEO Angelos Stergiou said, working side-by-side with its CRO to execute on its plans.

"This strategic partnership, customized to address these specific opportunities, will ensure a robust clinical development plan with appropriate clinical and regulatory strategies across all major markets globally," Stergiou said in a statement. "PPD's willingness to offer commercial terms tailored to our specific needs will help focus the clinical development teams on expeditious delivery of clinical data and will serve to align partnership goals."

Meanwhile, PPD has been expanding its reach through partnerships and dealmaking, last month buying out the discovery-focused outfit X-Chem in an acquisition designed to bolster its early-stage capacity. Last year, the CRO bought out technology provider Acurian to better focus on clinical trial enrollment and retention services.

- read the statement

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