Novo Nordisk has told Zosano Pharma it intends to end their 18-month collaboration to use Zosano’s patch system to develop transdermal versions of select Novo glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogs.

Zosano disclosed the termination today, saying it was told by Novo Nordisk that the decision reflected a strategic prioritization of its research portfolio “despite continued progress during the collaboration period.”

Zosano added that it will regain all technology rights licensed to Novo Nordisk related to GLP-1 products.

Novo Nordisk paid Zosano $1 million upfront last year at the start of the collaboration, Zosano disclosed in its quarterly Form 10-Q filing for the first quarter of this year. The collaboration could have generated $60 million for the first GLP-1 analog and $55 million for each additional analog developed, based on an upfront payment and payments tied to achieving preclinical, clinical, regulatory, and sales milestones.

Zosano was also eligible to receive royalties on sales of products, as well as development support and reimbursement of all development and manufacturing costs. Novo Nordisk agreed to oversee commercialization of all products under the agreement, pending successful outcomes of preclinical and clinical testing.

Novo Nordisk and Zosano launched their collaboration in February 2014 with the goal of developing new patch versions of human GLP-1 analogs capable of being administered once weekly using Zosano's microneedle patch system for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Zosano’s microneedle patch system is designed to offer rapid onset, consistent drug delivery, improved ease of use, and room-temperature stability—benefits that according to the company are often unavailable through oral formulations or injections. Zosano said the system has been tested in more than 400 patients with over 30,000 patches successfully applied to humans in Phase I and Phase II clinical studies.

Initially, Zosano and Novo Nordisk agreed to partner on preclinical experiments intended to assess delivering Novo’s semaglutide using the patch system: “Our goal in combining semaglutide with Zosano's microneedle patch system is to offer weekly dosing, room temperature stability and self-administration without the need for a subcutaneous injection,” Zosano CEO Vikram Lamba stated at the time.

In the form 10-Q, Zosano offered a brief update on the collaboration: “We are currently conducting a feasibility study in collaboration with Novo Nordisk.” The collaboration was listed as being in the preclinical phase, according to Zosano’s website.

The termination marks Novo Nordisk’s latest effort to refocus its R&D efforts on clinical-phase diabetes and obesity treatments. In May, Novo sold a development program focused on autoimmune diseases to Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Biotech for an undisclosed price. The program was one of five anti-inflammatory drug development programs ended by Novo in September 2014.

Two months earlier in March, Novo licensed to Bristol-Myers Squibb an autoimmune disease research program focused on modulating the innate immune system, also for an undisclosed price. A week before that announcement, Novo Nordisk deputy chief executive Kaare Schultz told Reuters that the company expected diabetes to account for 80% to 90% of its sales in 10 years, up from the current 79%: “This is the key focus for the company and we see strength in staying focused.”

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