Deals, Licensing

Cara hauls in $70M on first leg of global deal, setting up PhIII kidney disease drug for commercial roll out

Cara Pharmaceuticals, a small biotech in Connecticut, is licensing out its late-stage kidney disease drug in a deal that gives a Swiss pharmaceutical company commercialization rights across the globe.

Stefan Schulze, Vifor

Cara inked the deal with a joint venture formed by two public companies: Vifor Pharma and Fresenius Medical Care, the latter of which is the largest kidney dialysis provider in the US. The joint venture goes by Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma, or VFMCRP for short (but let’s be honest, it could be shorter).

The agreement raked in $70 million for Cara — $50 million as an upfront payment and $20 million as an equity investment. Cara could also see up to $470 million in milestone payments, should everything go swimmingly for the Stamford, CT-based company.

The drug, called Korsuva, is in a Phase III trial to treat itching and pain for chronic kidney disease patients on dialysis treatments. Korsuva tackles these side effects by selectively targeting peripheral kappa opioid receptors, the company says.

Stefan Schulze, Vifor Pharma’s COO and executive committee president, says 60-70% of dialysis patients experience itching as a side effect, with nearly 20% experiencing a rather severe version associated with lower survival.

“And despite this clear unmet medical need, there is no approved treatment for CKD- aP in Europe or the U.S.,” Sculze said. “(Korsuva) does not penetrate the brain and so bypasses unwanted side-effects like opioid addiction. It has significant potential for setting new standards in providing relief, both from CKD-induced itching and post-operative pain.”

Derek Chalmers, Cara

Vifor will have the exclusive rights to commercialize Korsuva for this particular indication throughout the world, except for US, Japan, and South Korea. Cara’s president and CEO Derek Chalmers says the deal is smart for the company, considering their new partner’s commercial expertise in nephrology.

“As a global leader in providing treatment for chronic kidney disease patients, VFMCRP is an ideal partner to bring Korsuva injection to dialysis patients across Europe and other licensed territories,” Chalmers said. “Additionally, we believe the ability to leverage VFMCRP’s nephrology-focused commercial expertise in our co-promotion partnership for U.S. Fresenius Medical Care dialysis facilities will provide significant momentum for adoption of Korsuva injection, if approved in the US.”

Chalmers also noted that Cara will retain all rights to Korsuva in other indications.


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