AbbVie Exercises Option to License Morphic’s Program for IPF and Other Fibrotic Diseases
August 25, 2020
Rare Daily Staff
Morphic Therapeutic and AbbVie announced that AbbVie has exercised a license option under the companies’ research and development collaboration agreement to develop Morphic’s alpha V beta 6 (αvβ6) integrin inhibitors for the treatment of fibrotic diseases including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and additional indications.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a serious, life-limiting lung disease characterized by fibrosis and scarring of lung tissue with a median survival of 3 to 5 years after diagnosis. Replacement of normal lung tissue by fibrosis results in restriction in the ability to fill the lungs with air and decreased transfer of oxygen from inhaled air into the bloodstream resulting in lower oxygen delivery to the brain and other organs. Patients with IPF most often suffer from progressive shortness of breath, particularly with exertion; chronic cough; fatigue and weakness; and chest discomfort.
More generally, fibrotic diseases can affect nearly all tissues and organ systems and, due to limited treatment options, can cause serious illness and death. The pro-fibrotic cytokine TGF-beta is a key regulator of fibrosis, but attempts to globally suppress its activity have suffered from a narrow therapeutic index (dose-limiting toxicity). Several integrins, such as αvβ6, play a dominant role in local activation of TGF-beta in diseased tissues. Inhibition of these integrins is therefore a compelling strategy for treating chronic fibrotic diseases with significant advantage over global TGF-beta inhibitors.
The αvβ6 integrin activates TGF-beta, a key driver of tissue fibrosis. AbbVie’s license covers αvβ6 integrin specific inhibitors discovered from Morphic’s proprietary platform, including the compounds MORF-720 and MORF-627, which are supported by an extensive preclinical data package demonstrating potential as treatments for IPF as well as other fibrotic diseases. Pursuant to the agreement between Morphic and AbbVie, Morphic will receive a license fee of $20 million, with potential future development milestone payments and royalties from the sales of any commercialized candidates.
“The preclinical data strongly support Morphic’s selective small molecule inhibitors of αvβ6 for development in fibrotic disease,” said Praveen Tipirneni, president and CEO of Morphic Therapeutic. “AbbVie has been an excellent partner through the preclinical development of this program and we believe that their decision to assume leadership for the next stages of development is a strong vote of confidence in our collaboration, as well as Morphic’s platform to generate orally available integrin inhibitors.”
Under the terms of their original agreement struck almost two years ago, AbbVie paid Morphic $100 million upfront for exclusive license options on product candidates directed at multiple targets. For each target, Morphic will conduct R&D activities through the completion of IND-enabling studies, at which point AbbVie may pay a license fee to exercise its exclusive license option and assume responsibility for global development and commercialization.
Morphic is also eligible for additional, undisclosed clinical and commercial milestone payments and tiered royalties on worldwide net sales for each compound. Morphic retains cost-sharing rights in the development of liver fibrosis indications, and may opt into paying a percentage of AbbVie’s development costs in exchange for enhanced royalties.
Photo: Praveen Tipirneni, president and chief executive officer of Morphic Therapeutic
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