Collaboration could lead to firms’ third licensing agreement for GIPET Platform.

Novo Nordisk and Merrion signed a collaboration and option agreement to evaluate the ability of the latter’s GIPET® platform to improve the oral bioavailability of an undisclosed compound. Under terms of the deal Novo Nordisk receives a 20-day warrant to acquire up to €1.5 million (just under $2 million) worth of Merrion stock at yesterday’s closing price of €3 per share. Merion can request Novo Nordisk to acquire up to €500,000 (about $657,000) worth of its shares at that price over the 20-day period.

Following the completion of feasibility studies Novo Nordisk will have an option to license the GIPET technology. The firms already have existing license agreements in place for the development of oral formulations of GLP-1 and insulin. Both of these candidates are in Phase I development.

Dublin, Ireland-based Merrion is exploiting its absorption-enhancing GIPET technology to develop orally bioavailable formulations of drugs that currently need to be administered by injection. The firm’s in-house pipeline is headed by the Phase III-stage Orazol™, a weekly oral tablet-based formulation of the bisphosphonate zoledronic acid, which is in development for the treatment of early-stage breast cancer and metastatic bone disease. Merrion says sales of zoledronic acid as an intravenous infusion reached nearly $2 billion in 2009.

Next in line is Almerol™ an oral formaulation of the bisphosphonate osteoporosis therapy alendronate (Merck’s Fosamax®), which is in Phase II studies primarily as a once-weekly dosage form. Earlier clinical-stage candidates include Acyline (MER-104), an oral GnRH antagonist in development for the treatment of cancer and other indications. MER-102 is a tablet formulation of an ultra low molecular weight heparin for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis.

Merrion’s partnered pipeline is headed by the oral insulin and GLP-1 candidates in development with Novo Nordisk. Product development collaborations are also in place with pharma companies including Ferring Pharmaceuticals.

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