FivePrime will receive research-related payments and up to $124 million in various fees.

FivePrime Therapeutics will receive $15 million this year from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as part of a collaboration between the firms to discover new targets and drugs against skeletal muscle disorders including sarcopenia and cachexia. FivePrime will also receive additional research-related payments in 2011 and 2013. The firm could earn an additional  $124 million in option/exercise fees and milestone payments plus tiered royalties on future sales.

GSK separately entered an agreement with Amplimmune to develop PD-1-targeting drugs for cancer and other diseases. The company has paid $23 million and agreed to up to $485 million in milestones.

The initial $15 million paid to FivePrime combines an up-front fee, the purchase of FivePrime equity, and research-related payments. The deal gives GSK exclusive access to FivePrime’s drug discovery platforms for relevant disease fields, including the latter’s proprietary collection of secreted proteins and transmembrane receptor proteins. FivePrime will carry out high-throughput in vitro and in vivo assays designed to identify targets and drug candidates for treating skeletal muscle diseases. GSK will then have an option to exclusively license each drug target or candidate and take on responsibility for the development of therapeutics through preclinical studies and worldwide commercialization.

FivePrime’s drug discovery strategy exploits its platform for screening the complete set of human extracellular proteins using medically relevant cell-based and in vivo screens. The extracellular proteins include both secreted proteins and the extracellular domains of cell surface receptors, the firm points out.

The company’s in-house pipeline is focused on oncology, metabolic diseases, and immunology. Lead product FP-1039 is a Phase I-stage ligand trap designed to block fibroblast growth factor proteins. The soluble fusion protein comprises the extracellular portion of fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1) attached to a human antibody backbone, which FivePrime claims is expected to have a dual effect on cancer cells through both direct inhibition of tumor cell growth and inhibition of tumor-associated angiogenesis. Phase I studies in cancer patients with advanced solid tumors are ongoing.

Lead immunology candidate FP-1069 is a ligand trap designed to block activity of the IL-34 cytokine, which is in development as a potential therapy for inflammatory diseases including relapsing remitting/progressive multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. FivePrime claims to have discovered IL-34 using its proprietary screen for monocyte survival factors, and subsequently determined that the receptor for IL-34 receptor is also the receptor for colony stimulating factor. The firm is collaborating with FastForward, a subsidiary of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, to progress FP-1069 for the multiple sclerosis indication. Phase I clinical trials are expected to start during 2011.

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