Ferring licensed near-global rights to Swedish firm Albireo’s irritable bowel disease (IBS) drug elobixibat, which is in preparation for both for Phase III trials in patients with chronic idiopathic constipation, and Phase IIb trials against constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C). The license gives Ferring rights to develop and commercialize elobixibat worldwide, except in Japan and a few Asian countries. Under terms of the deal Albireo will receive an upfront fee, plus development milestones and double-digit royalties.
The financial details haven’t been disclosed, but Ferring says the deal represents one of the biggest investments it has made for licensing rights to a product. “Elobixibat perfectly complements our gastroenterology portfolio,” remarks Michel Pettigrew, president and COO at Ferring.
Albireo was spun out of AstraZeneca in 2008 to focus on developing drugs for gastrointestinal disorders. Lead product elobixibat is designed to act locally in the gut with minimal systemic exposure, and modulate the enterohepatic circulation of bile acids by inhibiting the ileal bile acid transporter (IBAT, or apical sodium dependent bile acid transporter,(ASBT). This activity results in an increased concentration of bile acids in the colon which, in turn, increase fluid secretion and colonic motility. Positive data from a Phase IIb study in patients with CIC were reported back in 2010.
Albireo has three preclinical programs in development. One is focused on applications of IBAT inhibition for disease areas than gastrointestinal motility. Another is focused on neurokinin (NK) receptor antagonism as a first-in-class treatment of IBD and/or IBS. The third program aims to develop a locally active PPAR agonist as a first-in-class treatment of IBD.
Ferring’s existing gastrointestinal portfolio is headed by the marketed drug Pentasa® (mesalazine), which is approved in various markets for the long term management of inflammatory bowel diseases including ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease.