Equity investment will accompany deal covering Central Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Vienna-based AOP Orphan Pharmaceuticals is paying specialty pharmaceuticals firm Shield Holdings €1.25 million ($1.74 million) up front in return for rights to the latter’s Phase III-stage iron therapy product ST10-021 in Central Eastern Europe and the Middle East. As part of the deal AOP is also making an equity investment in a Shield subsidiary. Shield could in addition earn another €1.75 million ($2.4 million) in milestone payments.

ST10-021 is an oral complex of ferric iron, which Shield is developing initially for the treatment of iron deficiency anemia (IDA) associated with inflammatory bowel disease. The firm says IDA affects some 73% of patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. The recently initiated Phase III program will include two parallel international trials. Shield also aims to develop ST10-021 for treating IDA associated with pre-dialysis chronic kidney disease. 

Shield notes currently available oral treatments for IDA have limited effectiveness due to side effects and low levels of compliance, while intravenous therapies are expensive, inconvenient, and can cause hypersensitivity reactions. It claims that in contrast, ST10-021 is rapidly absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract, which may allow lower dosing and a reduction in the risk of gastrointestinal side effects. Activity of ST10-021 also appears to be independent to gastric pH, which may allow its prescription alongside drugs for reducing gastric acid.

Founded in 2008, Shield is dedicated to commercializing late-stage, mineral-derived pharmaceuticals. Headquartered in Wollerau, Switzerland, the firm acquired its lead ST10-021 candidate earlier this year.

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