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After Axovant shock, Roivant pens diabetes deal with Poxel

Acquires Merck Serono’s diabetes candidate imeglimin as part of the deal

AxovantIt’s been a mixed few days for biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and his company Roivant Sciences, with a diabetes licensing deal barely taking the edge off news of the departure of Alzheimer’s subsidiary Axovant’s CEO David Hung.

Hung’s resignation hasn’t come out of the blue, given Axovant’s 5-HT6 receptor antagonist intepirdine has fallen short of the mark in a series of clinical tests over the last few months and was finally abandoned last month. But he is being followed out of the door by chief operating officer Marion McCourt as well as board members Kate Falberg, Tony Vernon and Patrick Machado, and the exodus has taken a predictable toll on Axovant’s share price.

Axovant will now be led by Roivant executive Pavan Chevru as it refocuses on nelotanserin, a 5-HT2a receptor inverse agonist in phase II trials as a treatment for visual hallucinations and sleep disorders in Lewy body dementia and dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease. Results from a study reported last month showed some improvement but weren’t a home run, and the firm is now planning a larger study to try to boost the data.

Hard on the heels of the Axovant news, parent company Roivant announced that it had signed a development and licensing deal with French biotech Poxel for imeglimin, a candidate originally discovered by Merck Serono for type 2 diabetes, for $35m upfront and a $15m equity investment.

Poxel says imeglimin is in a new class of oral antidiabetic agents (ODAs) that work via mitochondria to improve glucose uptake by muscle tissue, reduce synthesis of glucose in the liver, help preserve insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas and restore insulin sensitivity.

The drug is already in phase III testing in Japan via a partnership with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, and Roivant will now take the lead on phase III trials in the US, Europe and other territories not covered by the Sumitomo alliance. Poxel will make a $25m contribution to the cost of those trials.

In addition to the upfront fee and equity investment, Poxel could also claim up to $500m in development and regulatory milestones and sales-based payments if imeglimin makes it through to market, plus double-digit royalties on sales.

Ramaswamy said that the agreement is "the beginning of our focus on metabolic diseases and imeglimin, with its compelling and consistent data, will be a cornerstone programme".

Roivant has plenty of money to in-license new projects, having picked up $1.1bn in an equity investment led by the investment arm of Japanese telecoms giant SoftBank last year.

Article by
Phil Taylor

13th February 2018

From: Sales

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