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

The best place to read Endpoints News? In your inbox.

Comprehensive daily news report for those who discover, develop, and market drugs. Join 51,100+ biopharma pros who read Endpoints News by email every day.

Free Subscription

VP Oncology Biology
Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
Director Process Development
Elektroki Boston, MA
Director Process Development
Elektroki Boston, MA
Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT

Visit Endpoints Careers ->