Skin treatments developer Dermira is adding another experimental drug to its pipeline that it plans to test as a potential treatment for eczema, through a deal announced this morning with healthcare giant Roche.
But in picking up the global rights to lebrikizumab, Menlo Park, CA-based Dermira (NASDAQ: DERM) is entering a suddenly crowded field of new treatments for the skin condition, which is characterized by inflamed, itchy, and scaly rashes on the skin. Dermira has agreed to pay Roche $80 million now, plus $55 million next year for global rights to the drug. If Dermira can hit development and regulatory goals for the lebrikizumab, the company could be on the hook to pay Roche up to $250 million more.
Should Dermira commercialize the injectable drug in other diseases, the company would have to pay more than $1 billion as the drug hits undisclosed sales marks. Dermira would also need to pay Roche royalties on the drug’s sales. Roche is keeping the rights to the drug in interstitial lung diseases, a group of disorders that lead to progressive scarring of the lungs.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an autoimmune disorder that produces an inflammatory response that’s visible on the skin. The condition affects at least 28 million people in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Lebrikizumab is a monoclonal antibody drug that targets interleukin 13, a protein associated with inflammation.
Other pharmas are aiming to address the eczema market with new drugs. Last December, the FDA approved Pfizer’s (NYSE: PFE) topical ointment crisaborole (Eucrisa) as a treatment for mild-to-moderate eczema. That drug, which blocks the inflammatory enzyme PDE4, came to Pfizer through its $5.2 billion acquisition of Anacor Pharmaceuticals last year. Meanwhile, Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) received FDA approval in March for its moderate-to-severe eczema drug dupilumab (Dupixent). Like the Roche drug, dupilumab targets interleukin 13.
Dermira and Roche expect to close the licensing deal later this quarter. In early 2018, Dermira plans to start a Phase 2b dose-ranging study, enrolling patients who have moderate-to-severe eczema. The goal of the trial is to find the best dose for a larger Phase 3 clinical trial. Dermira said it expects that it will spend approximately $200 million to get the early results for the Phase 2b study.