Use of Ligand’s HepDirect tech for the development of new candidates against hep B, hep C, and HCC part of deal.

Chiva Pharmaceuticals negotiated Chinese development rights to Ligand Pharmaceuticals’ clinical-stage HepDirect candidates, Pradefovir for hepatitis B (hepB) and MB01733 for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The deal also gives Chiva a nonexclusive license to use Ligand’s HepDirect technology for the discovery, development, and worldwide commercialization of new candidates against hep B, hep C, and HCC.

Ligand acquired Pradefovir, MB07133, and the HepDirect technology when it took over Metabasis in January 2010. Under terms of its new deal with Chiva, Ligand will receive $1 million in license payments during 2011, and could earn over $100 million in milestones and royalties on future sales, plus potentially a 10% equity stake in California-based Chiva, which is an affiliate of Hainan Kaihua Pharmaceutical.

“This strategic partnership with Chiva is a major event as it creates our first significant opportunity to introduce Ligand’s products and drug discovery capability in China,” remarks John L. Higgins, president and CEO at Ligand. “Less than a year ago, we brought into Ligand a basket of assets through our acquisition of Metabasis, and now this deal validates our ability to leverage our acquisitions and business platform to generate new deals.”

HepDirect is a prodrug technology that targets the delivery of drugs to the liver using a chemical modification that also renders the compound biologically inactive until cleaved by a liver-specific enzyme. Pradefovir is a HepDirect prodrug of PMEA, the active metabolite in the FDA-approved HepB drug adefovir dipivoxil (Hepsera®). The drug is currently in Phase II development in the U.S. MB07133 is a HepDirect prodrug of the intermediate form of cytarabine (araC) 5’-monophosphate. Currently in Phase I/II development treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma, the drug has already demonstrated strong response rates in terms of intrahepatic tumor regression in a U.S. trial, Ligand states.  

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