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EU, US biotechs merge to create fibrosis, cancer player

New company will be headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark

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Danish biotech Galecto has a deal with PharmAkea of the US to pool their resources in the development of drugs for fibrotic disease and cancer.

The merger will create a clinical trial-stage company that will retain the Galecto name and have its headquarters in Copenhagen, but will be incorporated in the US. Current Galecto chief executive Hans Schambye will stay in that role after the merger.

Galecto is already developing a drug for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), namely galectin-3 inhibitor TD139 which started a phase 2b trial earlier this year.

Absorbing PharmAkea will add a small-molecule LOXL2 inhibitor called PAT-1251 which completed a phase 1 trial in healthy volunteers two years ago and had been scheduled to start a phase 2 trial in myelofibrotic cancers next year.

That trial has since been withdrawn, with the study’s entry on the clinicaltrials.gov database noting that PharmAkea “is in a process of being taken over by another pharma and the new one has different ideas on how to pursue studies with this drug”.

The US biotech had put the LOXL2 drug out for tender as a licensing candidate, and has also already hived off another research programme headed by autotaxin inhibitor PAT-409 into a separate company – ATXCo – that was snapped up by Blade Therapeutics in September.

Galecto says that LOXL2 is “a key enzyme involved in the formation of the extracellular matrix during the fibrotic process” and could have potential in IPF as well as other fibrotic diseases.

LOXL2 is “a highly validated target and an exciting next generation small molecule inhibitor that is very potent and penetrates the fibrotic tissue”, said Schambye in a statement on the merger.

Galecto has previously attracted the attention of big pharma group Bristol-Myers Squibb, which took an option on the company in 2014 that valued it at almost $450m, but was never exercised.

TD139 is an inhaled inhibitor of galectin-3, which is thought to play a role in a number of pathological processes and activates the cells that cause fibrosis or scarring.

IPF is a debilitating and life-threatening condition that, until the approval of Roche/Intermune's Esbriet (pirfenidone) in 2011, had no approved drug treatments. It takes the form of a progressive scarring of the lungs, leading to shortness of breath, cough and – in extreme cases – can lead to fatal complications such as heart failure.

Esbriet has since been joined on the market by Boehringer Ingelheim's Ofev (nintedanib), approved in 2014, with other new agents in trials including AstraZeneca’s saracatinib, Galapagos’ GLPG1690 and FibroGen’s pamrevlumab in mid- to late-stage development.

Article by
Phil Taylor

7th January 2020

From: Sales

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