NeuroVive Pharmaceutical said today it has regained rights to the oral Hepatitis B virus (HBV) candidate NVP018 from Arbutus Biopharma (formerly OnCore Biopharma), some three months after Arbutus told NeuroVive it was ending development of the compound.

NeuroVive said the companies have signed a termination agreement ending a collaboration that started in September 2014, when OnCore agreed to develop NVP018 (also known as OCB-030) and other second-generation cyclophilin inhibitors designed to treat HBV, through an exclusive worldwide license that could have generated up to $150 million for NeuroVive in milestone payments plus royalties.

At the time, and afterward, OnCore was assembling a portfolio of oral HBV compounds. A month after launching the NeuroVive collaboration, OnCore acquired Enantigen, whose portfolio included two discovery programs aimed at the disease. In January 2015, in a deal also driven by oral HBV drug development, OnCore was acquired by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, with the combined company changing its name to Arbutus in July of last year.

On July 6, NeuroVive disclosed that it had been given a “purported” notice of termination by Arbatus, “which NeuroVive questions on several grounds” without elaborating, adding that the fate of the license was being discussed by the companies.

A month later, Arbutus said in a Form 10-Q quarterly filing that it decided last year to end development of OCB-30 “based on significant research and analysis,” while NeuroVive cautioned investors in its interim report for January-June 2016 that: “Arbutus’s decision to discontinue the development of OCB-030 may have some financial consequences but the specific details are yet to be determined.”

Today, NeuroVive said Arbutus has opted to proceed with other HBV compounds. Arbatus’ HBV pipeline is led by ARB-1467, which the company said on September 29 showed significant reduction in serum Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) levels in an ongoing Phase II multi-dose trial; additional multi-dose data is set to be released later this year. Arbutus HBV pipeline also includes two preclinical compounds, ARB-1740 and AB-423.

NeuroVive said it will regain NVP018 drug product and material produced by Arbutus, valued at approximately $1.5 million, as well as data from preclinical and CMC development that have been transferred from Arbatus.

NeuroVive also said that its regained rights to NPV018 will allow “for further development in any potential indication.”

“There are a number of valuable learnings that have come out of the preclinical development activities,” NeuroVive CEO Eric Kinnman said in a statement. “As we see several very exciting potential treatments with NVP018 in areas with unmet medical need, the R&D team is currently exploring various options for further development of these opportunities.”

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