Phenomix Strikes European Partnership for Diabetes Drug, Potentially Worth $163M

Xconomy San Diego — 

Phenomix has found a partner to help it develop a diabetes drug in Europe and certain other countries. The San Diego-based biotech company said today that the Italy-based Chiesi Farmaceutici has agreed to pay $28 million in near-term cash and equity payments, and a total of as much as $163 million if the Phenomix treatment reaches certain milestones.

Chiesi, which has 3,200 employees around the world, will be solely responsible for development and commercializing Phenomix’s dutogliptin (PHX1149) in its territories, the companies said in a statement. That includes Europe, Brazil, Russia, all other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Turkey, and Northern Africa, the companies said.

The deal for Phenomix (pronounced Fuh-NO-mix) revolves around an experimental drug for treating diabetes that blocks an enzyme called DPP4, which I profiled back in February. Merck led the way in October 2006 with sitagliptin (Januvia), the first drug of this class approved in the U.S. By blocking DPP4, these drugs raise the levels of a peptide called GLP-1, which signals that food is in the body and tells the pancreas to make more insulin to control blood sugar. The advantage with these drugs is they can be taken as an oral pill once a day, instead of having patients take twice-daily injections as required with San Diego-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals’ exenatide (Byetta). The market for these DPP4 blockers ought to be worth more than $10 billion a year, Phenomix CEO Laura Shawver told me earlier this year. The Phenomix drug is now in the third and final phase of clinical trials needed for regulatory approval.

“I am very pleased to be collaborating with Chiesi, an established pharmaceutical company with the commercial resources and dedication to make dutogliptin a success in Europe, Brazil, the CIS, Turkey and Northern Africa,” Shawver said in a statement. “Chiesi has a proven track record of development and commercial expertise in the primary care and cardiometabolic space and has the capabilities to bring dutogliptin to a much broader patient population.”

The partnership with Chiesi is the second one Phenomix has negotiated to commercialize dutogliptin. New York-based Forest Laboratories obtained the right to co-promote the drug in the U.S. back in October 2008, and it has exclusive marketing rights in Canada and Mexico.