Drug Development

Chiesi picks a pipeline fight with Novartis, going head-to-head on a big new target for asthma

Early in 2016 the UK’s Atopix Therapeutics was forced to admit that its lead drug, OC459, had failed a mid-stage study for atopic dermatitis. But it’s also been building on a positive set of mid-stage data for eosinophilic asthma, and today Italy’s Chiesi has bagged the drug and the company in an $82 million acquisition deal.

Atopix has been squarely focused on a hot spot in asthma research. Eosinophilic asthma — which is particularly severe — is suffered by about 40% of the overall population. And it’s been attracting some powerhouse attention from the top players in the field also interested in Atopix’s focus on a CRTh2 antagonist.

The acquisition now puts Chiesi squarely in the path of the giant Novartis $NVS, which also has a CRTh2 antagonist in development. Now in Phase III with a schedule to launch in asthma in 2019, Novartis has been promoting fevipiprant as a likely game-changer in asthma, though its one of several eosinophil treatments now angling for the lead in the pipeline.

Boulder, CO-based Array BioPharma has posted positive mid-stage data on its own CRTh2 pill ARRY-502, back in 2014. And AstraZeneca (benralizumab), GlaxoSmithKline Nucala (mepolizumab) and Teva have all been angling for a share of the asthma market with eosoniphilic antibodies that have blockbuster potential.

Reporting in the prestigious pages of The Lancet, investigators say that Novartis’ CRTh2 antagonist – now in Phase III with a 2019 launch date planned – dramatically reduced levels of eosoniphils. Adding the drug to standard of care massively reduced the levels of eosinophils, which dropped from an average of 5.4% to 1.1% — nearly normal – in the trial, which enrolled a total of 61 patients.

Atopix has a diverse group of backers, including SR One, Wellington Partners, SV Life Sciences and MPM Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners and Red Abbey Venture Partners


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RAPS Regulatory Convergence 2017