Germany’s Phenex Pharmaceuticals confirmed receipt of a $100M milestone payment from Gilead Sciences, relating to continued clinical development of the synthetic, nonsteroidal farnesoid X receptor (FXR) agonist GS-9674 for the treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The latest milestone payment follows on from a milestone payment, amount undisclosed, received from Gilead in February 2016 on the start of a Phase I study with GS-9674 in the NASH indication. 

Gilead acquired the FXR program from Phenex in December 2014 through a potentially $470 million deal. The U.S. firm has since progressed the drug into Phase II studies for the treatment of NASH, primary biliary cholangitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis. “When we signed this FXR deal with Gilead at the end of 2014, we could only hope that one day a molecule from our labs would be elected by Gilead as a clinical development candidate,” commented Dr. Claus Kremoser, CEO of Phenex. “At that time it was an ambitious aspiration which has now become reality. We are very pleased that Gilead has fully embraced our FXR agonist program and wish them success for the outcome of these studies. GS-9674 is now in the best hands to be further developed in these indications with high unmet medical needs.”

Phenex says it will use the proceeds from its milestone payments to generate a pipeline of drugs for hepatic and gastrointestinal disorders and cancer. The firm’s retinoid-acid receptor-related orphan receptor gamma t (RORγt) program, for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis, is partnered with Janssen Biotech. Phenex and Janssen Biotech signed the potentially $135 million licensing agreement back in 2013.


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