Purdue puts up $213M for a novel pain drug from VM Pharma

Purdue CEO Mark Timney

Chronic pain giant Purdue Pharma signed a deal worth as much as $213 million to get its hands on a VM Pharma treatment that could widen the company's portfolio beyond traditional opioid drugs.

The candidate, VM-902A, targets a signaling protein called TrkA, which regulates nerve growth and plays a role in chronic pain, according to Purdue. Using an "unprecedented" mechanism of action, oral VM-902A charted a strong safety and efficacy profile in a 72-patient Phase I study, Purdue said, and the company plans to push into midstage trials early next year.

Under the licensing deal, Purdue paid VM an undisclosed upfront sum and has promised development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments tied to the drug's progress, with the whole package totaling as much as $213 million. VM is also due unspecified royalties on any future sales of VM-902A, Purdue said.

The privately held Purdue has long made its money in treating chronic pain, focusing largely on opioid treatments in various forms. Now, bringing in VM-902A is part of a cross-cutting effort to expand the company's pipeline, Purdue said, recruiting new partners and considering novel pathways.

"The TrkA mechanism and VM-902A specifically hold great promise in treating pain," CEO Mark Timney said in a statement. "This acquisition expands and diversifies our pipeline by adding a potentially innovative non-opioid, non-NSAID treatment to our portfolio."

And Purdue has been reaching outside of its home market in chronic pain, last month signing a deal with Eisai to split the costs of lemborexant, a Phase III insomnia treatment the company believes could become a disruptive force on the market for sleep aids.

- read the statement