Swiss pharmaceutical group Helsinn has passed back to Zealand Pharma all rights to the latter’s glucagon-like peptide-2 (GLP-2) analog elsiglutide, which it was developing for treating chemotherapy-induced diarrhea. The drug failed to meet its primary endpoint in a Phase IIb study in chemotherapy-treated colorectal cancer patients, reported last year.

Helsinn acquired global rights to elsiglutide for use in cancer-supportive care back in 2008, in a deal valued at up to €140 million ($157 million), excluding potential sales royalties. Commenting on its decision to give the drug back to Zealand, Riccardo Braglia, Helsinn Group vice chairman, stated, “Following recent acquisitions that have augmented Helsinn's pipeline of products and the strategic decision to move beyond solely cancer supportive care and into cancer therapeutics, Helsinn has decided to return elsiglutide to Zealand.”

Danish firm Zealand said it will now evaluate how and whether it will progress elsiglutide development. “Following Helsinn's decision to return elsiglutide, Zealand now has the opportunity to pursue the development of medicines for cancer-supportive care in line with our strategy of taking forward fully owned programs,” stated Britt Meelby Jensen, Zealand president and CEO. “We remain confident that GLP-2 analogs have the potential to meet a significant unmet need for patients suffering from chemotherapy-induced diarrhea and other gastrointestinal diseases.”

Last month, Zealand reported positive data from a Phase IIa study evaluating different doses of its glucagon analog dasiglucagon in the treatment of type 1 diabetes in adult patients. The drug is in development as a potential first-in-class liquid-stable glucagon that could be used with a pump-based artificial pancreas. Zealand is developing its dual-hormone artificial pancreas system iLet™ in partnership with Beta Bionics.