Allergan has extended its existing partnership with Swiss biotech Molecular Partners to research treatments for eye conditions in a new deal potentially worth more than $1.4bn.
The agreement covers two research programmes, both of which make use of DARPins – a novel class of protein drug that Molecular Partners specialises in developing for conditions with high unmet medical need.
DARPins have the potential to surpass existing antibodies as they combine the specificity of a targeted approach with the stable, low-cost production methods that monoclonal antibodies currently lack.
The first programme under the partners' new agreement will involve DARPins in the design, development and commercialisation of a molecule known as MP0260 for the treatment of the eye disease exudative age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and related conditions.
Allergan and Molecular Partners will work together to develop MP0260 through to human proof of concept, at which point Molecular Partners has the option to co-fund Allergan's development costs in exchange for an increase in royalties.
In addition, the two companies will collaborate on the design and development of DARPins against selected targets that are implicated in causing serious diseases of the eye, with Allergan holding the right to exercise three options to exclusively license collaboration compounds for ophthalmology.
Once these options are carried out, Allergan will pay Molecular Partners an option exercise fee and will then be responsible for further development, manufacturing and commercialisation activities.
As it stands, Allergan will pay Molecular Partners an upfront fee of $62.5m, with up to $1.4bn potentially available in milestone payments.
“This is an important step forward in our strategy to build on strong partnerships with the leaders in a therapeutic area,” said Dr Patrick Amstutz, chief business officer of Molecular Partners.
“DARPins are potent biologics which may address significant unmet medical needs in large patient populations in various disease areas.”
These deals expand Allergan's existing $420m deal it struck with Molecular Partners in 2011 to develop the molecule MP0112, which is currently in phase IIb development for a range of ophthalmic indications including wet AMD.