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Evotec teams with Shire on Fabry's disease as pharma interest in orphans grows

By Dan Stanton+

13-Aug-2014
Last updated on 13-Aug-2014 at 17:15 GMT

Alpha galactosidase - the protein that is deficient in Fabry disease.
Alpha galactosidase - the protein that is deficient in Fabry disease.

Evotec has partnered with Shire to develop inhibitors against Fabry’s disease and says such collaborations will grow as Big Pharma increasingly looks towards rare diseases.

Hamburg, Germany-based Evotec will develop small molecule inhibitors against a target to treat Fabry's disease - an inherited lysosomal storage disease - in a three year collaboration with Shire, using drug discovery technology including its high-throughput screening (HTS), fragment-based screening, and computational chemistry platforms.

The deal was announced yesterday as part of the contract research organisation’s (CRO) first half 2014 results, though the partnership had officially begun in May before Shire was absorbed by AbbVie in a $53bn (€40bn) megamerger last month .

Shire, with a portfolio of treatments for orphan diseases like Fabry’s and Hunter syndrome, is one of the “most prominent strategic players” in rare diseases, Evotec CEO Werner Lanthaler said in a conference call yesterday.

However, “large pharma is growing increasing into rare diseases” and Evotec is hoping to support the growth by offering its discovery and development platforms and services, Lanthaler said. A “nice customer pool is evolving for this field,” he added.

He also said Evotec was well placed to be an outsourcing partner in developing drugs for orphan disease – a disease, usually genetic, that affects a small percentage of the population – having worked with NGOs, such as the CHDI foundation to discover a therapy for the neurodegenerative genetic disorder Huntington’s disease.

“This is a rare disease, and obviously it’s a big disease of course, but it’s something which is a very niche market where you have to have key expertise,” he told investors. “This foundation is using Evotec at the very broad scale to do the work here. I think capabilities for rare diseases has been done up here and can be broadened quite nicely.”

‘Bigger than Pfizer’

For the first half 2014, the CRO reported revenues of €40m, up 9% year-on-year, and though net loss was €4.4m, it was a slight improvement from H1 2013.

During the half Lanthaler said the firm was growing across all its sites, especially Hamburg (where around 40 scientists were recruited) and Oxford, UK, as it invested in its future.

“We’re basically trying to extract top talent from academia and also from pharma companies,” he said. “At these pharma companies, we are clearly benefiting at this stage from the restructuring situations of other companies. So there is more talent out there from pharma restructuring situations than ever before, so that’s very good for us.”

This is apparent in its UK operations consisting of over 250 scientists. “We are the largest medicinal chemistry company in the UK now. It used to be Pfizer, then it used to be GSK, then it used to be Shire, but it’s really a function of the restructuring situation of pharma companies that now Evotec is the largest medicinal chemistry provider.”

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