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Bayer extends alliance with Evotec in women’s health

Five-year research agreement focuses on polycystic ovary syndrome

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Bayer has signed a new five-year research agreement with German biotech Evotec focusing on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a debilitating condition with few treatment options.

Under the terms of the deal, Evotec gets upfront payments of €16.5m with another €330m in the offing in research funding and milestones for hitting objectives.

The programme will draw on Evotec’s ‘big data’ and genomics project with Celmatix, which was signed last year and focuses on preclinical stage drug candidates for women’s reproductive health including endometriosis, PCOS and infertility.

Bayer and Evotec have already been working together on drug candidates for endometriosis, and adding PCOS into the mix means that the collaboration is now addressing health conditions that affect up to 500 million women worldwide.

There has been little progress in how these and other related conditions are diagnosed and treated, according to Evotec.

PCOS is the most frequent cause of female infertility, affecting somewhere between 5% and 10% of all women and accounting for up to 83% of infertility or pregnancy complications.

It’s caused by the production of higher than usual levels of male hormones and aside from fertility issues can also lead to obesity, hair loss and acne, as well as raising the risk of metabolic disorders like insulin resistance and diabetes.

Bayer and Evotec will both contribute drug targets to the alliance as well as other technology platforms, and will jointly develop drugs arising from it. The aim is to bring forward “multiple” candidates into trials.

“Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common, under-diagnosed and under-treated disease among women, with several serious co-morbidities,” said Cord Dohrmann, Evotec’s chief scientific officer.

“The currently available treatment options are also limited and insufficient,” he added.

At the moment, PCOS is typically treated with the contraceptive pill to try to restore regular periods, tackle hair loss and reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, as well as infertility drugs like clomifene and diabetes drugs such as metformin to treat metabolic disturbances.

Bayer’s collaboration with Evotec dates back to 2012 and has generated a number of drug candidates, including one – codenamed BAY1817080 – that strayed outside the main focus of the collaboration and has been pursued for the treatment of chronic cough.

The lead candidate from the endometriosis alliance is vilaprisan, which has advanced into phase 2 trials in both endometriosis and uterine fibroids but suffered a setback at the end of 2018, with recruitment halted after a potential toxicity issue was seen in animal testing. It’s still listed as an active programme in Bayer’s latest pipeline update.

A second alliance was set in 2016 to develop multiple clinical candidates for the treatment of kidney diseases.

Article by
Phil Taylor

9th January 2020

From: Sales

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