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AZ licenses asthma infection drug from Synairgen

Boosts respiratory portfolio with $232m deal
AstraZeneca AZ headquarters London UK

AstraZeneca (AZ) has added to its portfolio of respiratory drug candidates after licensing an inhaled interferon beta therapy from Synairgen which is in trials to treat viral infections in asthma.

The novel formulation - called SNG001 - is designed to prevent the sometimes severe exacerbations suffered by asthma patients when they develop respiratory viral infections such as colds. Viral exacerbations account for up to eight out of 10 asthma-related emergency admissions to hospital but there are limited treatment options available.

A defect within lung cells from people with asthma means they do not produce interferon beta themselves, compromising part of the natural host defence against viral infections.

AZ is paying UK-based Synairgen $7.25m upfront for rights to the drug, with development and commercial milestone payments potentially taking the tally up to $232m, as well as double-digit royalties on any eventual sales. The big pharma company will also meet all future development costs for SNG001.

"SNG001 is an innovative and targeted therapy that, if successful, has the potential to offer a step-change in the treatment of severe asthma," said Maarten Kraan, head of respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune innovative medicines at AZ. The approach could also be of value in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients.

Phase IIa trials of the therapy are due to start early in 2015 and will enrol patients with severe asthma.

AZ is already a major player in asthma with its Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol) combination therapy, sales of which were $928m in the first quarter of the year, although the product is facing generic competition in Europe.

Respiratory, alongside oncology and diabetes, is one of the main growth platforms for AZ. The company said in its recent strategy document - drawn up during its defence against Pfizer's takeover bid - that the will bring in revenues of around $8bn in 2023, driven by "a strong current product franchise and a diverse emerging pipeline covering a broad set of patients."

Leading its respiratory pipeline at the moment is long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) PT001 - which was licensed from Pearl Therapeutics last year in a deal worth up to $1.15bn that also included combination LAMA and long-acting beta agonist (LABA) PT003 (glycopyrrolate and formoterol fumarate).

Both PT001 and PT003 are in phase III trials for COPD and are due to be filed in 2015 in the US and a year later in Europe. Following shortly behind is interleukin-5-targetting drug benralizumab for severe asthma, which is scheduled for regulatory submissions in 2016.

Article by
Phil Taylor

12th June 2014

From: Research

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