Kiniksa inks licensing deal to take a Regeneron castoff into Asian markets
After digging through Regeneron’s trash bin, Kiniksa has managed to put together a tiny run with the aging drug Arcalyst in recent years. Now, the company will look to break through in Asian markets.
Huadong Medicine will pay $22 million upfront and a potential $640 million in downstream milestones to exclusively license Kiniksa’s Arcalyst, an IL-1α and IL-1β blocker, and Covid-19 antibody candidate mavrilimumab in Asian markets not including Japan, the partners said Wednesday.
Arcalyst, an aging drug Kiniksa picked up from Regeneron’s junk heap back in 2017, has continued earning dividends for the company in the past few years, most recently earning an approval in March 2021 to treat recurrent pericarditis and reduce the risk of recurrence in patients 12 years and older.
Arcalyst was first approved in 2008 for cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes (CAPS), including familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome and Muckle-Wells syndrome. It got another OK in December 2020 for the maintenance of remission of deficiency of IL-1 receptor antagonist (DIRA). Kiniksa controls full sales and distribution of the drug for all three indications in the US.
Now, the company is leaning on a local partner to help distribute across the region, which includes markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, and 18 other countries, Kiniksa said. That’s a common strategy for Western drugmakers looking to break in given the unique market dynamics in China in particular.
Meanwhile, the pact also includes the little-heralded mavrilimumab, one of many antibody hopefuls looking to make a dent in the late stage of the pandemic.
Back in December 2020, the company revealed middling data for that drug, once a candidate in rheumatoid arthritis, in preventing severe Covid-19 patient deaths over placebo. But Kiniksa has plowed ahead regardless after casting a hopeful light that the data were moving in the right direction.
Ultimately, however, the waning pandemic and a lack of patient interest could smother the drug’s chances even if an unlikely approval comes down. That’s a testament to the success of the Covid-19 vaccines and the emergency approvals of multiple oral antivirals.