Ligand Pharmaceuticals said today it will develop and commercialize four R&D programs based on its Captisol® technology through a just-launched collaboration with Avion Pharmaceuticals whose value was not disclosed.

Ligand did say, however, that it is entitled to receive an upfront payment, and is eligible to receive revenue from sales of Captisol material, payments tied to achieving unspecified milestones, and royalties on future net sales of the products containing Captisol under the companies’ commercial licensing agreement.

“Through this multi-program partnership with Avion Pharmaceuticals, we are adding a new organization to our growing list of partners and have added four additional fully-funded programs to our existing portfolio of more than 100 Shots-on-Goal,” John Higgins, Ligand’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

“Shots-on-Goal” is Ligand’s metaphor for its portfolio of more than 100 fully-funded programs where the company is eligible for milestones, royalties, and/or sales of Captisol. Ligand’s portfolio programs are licensed to more than 60 biopharma companies—including pharma giants that include AstraZeneca, Baxter International, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Merck & Co., and Pfizer.

The company said Shots-on-Goal has been a success since portfolio programs have ballooned from nine in 2008, when it had just one revenue-generating product, compared with seven today.

Captisol is a chemically modified cyclodextrin designed to improve drug solubility and stability. Captisol’s original form was invented and initially developed by scientists in the laboratories of Valentino Stella, Ph.D., at the University of Kansas’ Higuchi Biosciences Center. The technology has enabled six FDA-approved products, including multiple myeloma Kyprolis® (carfilzomib), which Amgen acquired when it bought Onyx Pharmaceuticals last year for $10.4 billion; Baxter’s heart rhythm disorder drug Nexterone® (amiodarone); and Merck & Co.’s antifungal drug Noxafil® (posaconazole).

According to Ligand, more than 30 Captisol-enabled products are in clinical development.

Avion develops and markets branded pharmaceutical and dietary supplement products focused on women's health and dermatology.

“This partnership also demonstrates new demand for Captisol in both oral and topical administration, adding to the position Captisol has established in enabling injectable products,” Higgins added. 

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