Two years after Durham, NC-based Parion Sciences forged a major tie-up with Vertex on cystic fibrosis, the little biotech has done it again — this time with Shire.
Lexington, MA-based Shire has agreed to pay $40 million in an upfront and near-term cash to get its hands on worldwide rights to a Phase II dry eye disease drug. Hundreds of millions more is on the table in promised milestones, bringing the potential deal value up to $535 million.
Like Vertex, Shire has been drawn to the biotech’s work on ENaC — epithelial sodium channel — inhibitor molecules. In this case P-321 is designed to amp up tear volume on the eye surface, and investigators have some preliminary efficacy data from a Phase I/II safety study that indicates they may be on to something.
Parion isn’t letting go entirely of its drug. The biotech has the option to co-fund R&D in exchange for a bigger royalty share. It’s also keeping its hands on rights to co-fund commercialization work that would potentially put it in line for a bigger payout.
Shire has been focused on ophthalmology since the arrival of Flemming Ornskov at the helm. The company has been building a pipeline of eye drugs and recently won approval to sell Xiidra (lifitegrast) for dry eye disease.
Vertex added two of Parion’s drugs to its pipeline in 2015, looking for new triple combinations that can address a wide group of cystic fibrosis patients.
“Ophthalmics is a continued focus for Shire, and the program for P-321 will benefit from our development and commercial infrastructure and expertise,” said Ornskov in a prepared statement. “This is an opportunity to apply our knowledge and experience from ophthalmics and dry eye disease for further innovation in this space. If approved, P-321 would expand our eye care portfolio.”
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