Eiger BioPharmaceuticals said today it has licensed from Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) its Pegylated Interferon Lambda-1a, a first-in-class type III interferon, for study as a monotherapy and combination treatment for chronic hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection.

The value of the licensing deal was not disclosed, though Eiger said it agreed to pay BMS an upfront payment and issue common stock to the pharma giant.

Eiger also agreed to pay BMS payments tied to development and regulatory milestones through first commercial sale in the U.S., E.U., and Japan, as well as payments based on achieving commercial sales milestones and tiered annual net sales royalties.

Eiger reasons that Lambda represents a promising and potentially better-tolerated interferon therapy for HDV, because receptors for Lambda are expressed on liver cells, a desirable location for treating viral hepatitis, but less so on some blood cells and nonliver cells. Most cells in the body, by contrast, express the receptor for interferon-α, a type I interferon.

HDV is the most aggressive and deadly form of human viral hepatitis, for which there is no approved therapy. Lambda has been administered in clinical studies involving more than 3000 participants.

“The addition of Lambda to our pipeline is a significant step toward building a leading HDV franchise,” Eiger President and CEO David Cory said in a statement. “Along with lonafarnib, our Phase II candidate for the treatment of HDV, Eiger has established a strategic position with the addition of Lambda.”

Lonafarnib, an oral active inhibitor of farnesyl transferase whose trade name is Sarasar™, is being developed by Eiger under license from Merck & Co. Lonafarnib has been granted Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA and European Medicines Agency, as well as the FDA’s Fast Track Designation.

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