Firms are developing CTLA4-Ig drugs for various autoimmune disorders.

Perseid Therapeutics achieved a preclinical milestone under its collaboration with Astellas Pharma and received $5 million. The firms are working together to develop and commercialize next-generation CTLA4-Ig therapeutics.

Perseid achieved its first milestone in December 2009 and obtained a $5 million fee. The CTLA4-Ig product candidates are being designed to be superior, next-generation therapeutics for autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and transplant rejection. By binding to human B7 ligands with high avidity, CTLA4-Ig fusion proteins inhibit B7-mediated co-stimulation of T cells via the CD28 receptor, thereby decreasing activation of T cells and thus decreasing immune system activation, Perseid explains.

The co-development and commercialization agreement with Astellas was originally entered into by Maxygen, Perseid’s owner, in September 2008. Perseid began operations on September 18, 2009, with the consummation of a joint venture (JV) between Maxygen and Astellas and took over work under the CTLA4-Ig partnership.

According to the JV arrangement, Maxygen contributed $10 million in cash and substantially all of its programs and technology assets in protein pharmaceuticals excluding the MAXY-G34 program to Perseid in exchange for an 83.3% ownership interest. Astellas invested $10 million in cash, owns the remaining interest in Perseid, and holds an option to acquire all of Maxygen’s share. This may be exercised at prespecified prices that increase each quarter from the current option price of $65 million through September 18, 2010, to $123 million over the term of the option, which expires on September 18, 2012.

Under the co-development and commercialization agreement, Perseid and Astellas are co-developing CTLA4-Ig candidates for RA and other autoimmune diseases. Astellas will exclusively develop CTLA4-Ig candidates for transplant rejection. The companies share preclinical and development costs for autoimmune disease indications in North America and European countries, while Astellas is solely responsible for development costs for autoimmune disease indications in the rest of the world and for transplant rejection indication worldwide.

Perseid has an option to co-promote any autoimmune therapeutic developed under this alliance in North America. Perseid is eligible to receive tiered double-digit royalties on all sales. If Perseid exercises its option to co-promote, revenues from any such therapeutic product will instead be subject to a profit-sharing arrangement between the parties. Regardless of indication, Astellas will manufacture the finished product using active drug substance provided by Perseid and market and sell such product globally.

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