China’s Tasly Pharmaceutical Group is making a €20 million (approximately $22 million) investment in French biopharma Pharnext as part of the firms’ strategic partnership to discover and develop novel drug combinations for multiple therapeutic areas and to commercialize Pharnext’s lead late-stage candidate PXT3003 for Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 1A (CMT1A) disease in China.

PXT3003 is a synergistic combination of baclofen, naltrexone, and sorbitol, formulated as an oral solution. Pharnext says this therapy has multiple mechanisms of action, including inhibition of PMP22 gene overexpression that underlies the chronic, peripheral neuropathies caused by CMT1A. PXT3003 is currently being evaluated in a Phase III study, topline data from which are expected during Q2 2018.

The partnership between Tasly and Pharnext will include setting up a R&D joint venture, owned 30% by Pharnext, that combines Pharnext’s Pleotherapy™ platform for repurposing combinations of approved drugs for new indications and Tasly’s expertise in traditional Chinese medicine. The joint venture will also develop PXT3003 in China. Commercialization rights to new drug combinations that progress to proof of concept will be assigned to either company or licensed to third parties. The firms said they aim to focus on cardiovascular and oncology indications.

“This strategic partnership with Tasly is a major milestone: it confirms the global interest in and the value of our innovative technology platform, Pleotherapy,” commented Daniel Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Pharnext. “This partnership will provide access to new markets and new indications for Pharnext technology and products, while also integrating components of modernized traditional Chinese medicine.”

“The joint venture we are creating has the potential to generate a robust pipeline of new therapeutics,” added Yan Kaijing, chairman of Tasly Pharmaceuticals. “We will rely on Tasly's advantages of its existing biomedical R&D platform and access to the Chinese hospital network, as well as Pharnext’s remarkable drug R&D technological know-how, to develop high-potential drug combinations addressing important unmet medical needs. Based on biological disease network pharmacology, this partnership will exploit the immense potential of modernized Chinese traditional medicine, characterizing in a novel and precise way the mechanism of action of each combination we will develop.”

Tasly’s investment in Pharnext includes the purchase of €5 million (roughly $5.4 million) in shares at €12.5 ($13.6) per share and €15 million ($16.3 million) in convertible bonds, with a conversion price of €13 ($14.1) per share. Pharnext share price closed at €9.73 ($10.57) yesterday and opened at €12.05 ($13.09) this morning.

In March, Pharnext and Galapagos inked an R&D agreement to develop a pipeline of synergistic drug combinations for a potentially broad set of therapeutic applications.  

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