Nektar Forms New Company Inheris to Take Reins on Pain, CNS Drugs

Xconomy San Francisco — 

If Nektar Therapeutics wins FDA approval this summer for an opioid painkiller it designed to be less addictive than other opioids, another company will usher the new product onto the market.

San Francisco-based Nektar (NASDAQ: NKTR) announced Thursday that it formed Inheris Biopharma to take the reins on pain drug NKTR-181, as well as several preclinical compounds for central nervous system disorders. The new company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nektar, will be headquartered in northern New Jersey. No financing details were disclosed. Nektar’s remaining drug pipeline includes experimental treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases.

NKTR-181 is an opioid, but Nektar developed the pill to relieve pain without causing the high that patients can experience with other opioids. The company says its drug poses less of a risk for addiction because it has a molecular structure designed to cross the blood-brain barrier more slowly, reducing its euphoric effects.

Last year, Nektar filed for FDA approval of its opioid drug as a treatment for chronic low back pain in adults who haven’t been treated with opioids previously. A decision is expected by Aug. 29.

Nektar had said it planned to find a partner to commercialize the drug. But in its 2018 annual report, Nektar revealed that it was evaluating several strategies for commercializing the drug, including setting up a subsidiary. During Nektar’s May 9 conference call to discuss first quarter 2019 financial results, CEO Howard Robin said an announcement about the new company was expected in coming weeks.

Former Merck (NYSE: MRK) executive Jay Galeota has been appointed president & CEO of Inheris. Nektar also announced that Joe Stauffer, whose experience includes executive roles at Ikaria, Alpharma, and Cara Therapeutics, will serve as Inheris’ chief medical officer.

Photo by Flickr user tr0tt3r via a Creative Commons license