BTG takes advantage of pharma refocus

By Mike Nagle

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pharmaceutical industry Pharmacology

As much of the pharma industry looks to refocus its research and
development, speciality companies can take advantage of compounds
dropped in the reshuffle.

One example of this is BTG, which specialises in acquiring or in-licensing compounds for further development.

The company has just bought a potential pain-killing drug from French company CLL Pharma, which has decided to drop its pain and oncology franchises, according to BTG CEO Dr Louise Makin.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Up to half of the products dropped by pharmaceutical companies across the board are not developed further because of strategic business decisions, rather than because the product fails in terms of safety and efficacy, Dr Makin told

A company refocusing its pipeline is just one of the many drivers behind the increasing number of license deals seen within the pharma industry - a trend Dr Makin sees as extremely positive.

"If it means that more drugs that are cost effective get to market in a timely fashion, then that's good for everyone."

The compound acquired from CLL Pharma (to be called BTG6001) is an opioid activator that could be used to reduce postoperative pain.

The compound is currently undergoing preclinical studies and is expected to enter Phase I trials in 2008.

Dr Makin was attending the 13th Annual Pharmaceuticals Conference, held by The Economist in London, which sought to address how the pharma industry is adapting to challenges in the sector.

Commenting on the increasing number of license deals seen within the industry, Dr Makin said: "Big pharma has tried and is trying a number of things, in terms of driving up productivity in R&D but at the same time, the rate of new drug approvals is going down."

Dr Makin went on to suggest that one reason the number of deals is increasing might be because of what she described as "the coming of age of biotech."

She said: "A number of start-ups from 5 or 10 years ago are getting to the point where there are now products that look interesting for big pharma."

"Although it goes in cycles, there are a number of license deals that are going earlier than they would historically have gone and paying more than money for them than you might have historically thought they would have done," she noted.

Often companies will out-license products with broad indications, such as in cancer, where a single drug could be approved for several indications.

"It's good for the industry because if there are innovative products that are languishing in companies that don't have the wherewithal to take them broadly and fast to market, then it's good that they get into the hands of somebody who will actually do that," said Dr Makin.

"There is nobody better than a large pharma company to do the large number of trials concurrently that would be needed to get that product registered and on the market and make a difference in multiple indications."

For instance, Genzyme are helping BTG develop Campath (alemtuzumab).

Although already approved as a third line treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the US based company are also investigating the compound in several other indications, including as a potential first line treatment of CLL and to treat multiple sclerosis, which is expected to proceed to pivotal Phase III trials in the first half of this year, according to Genzyme.

In the hands of a company that is more financially constrained, the product might only initially come to market in one indication, Dr Makin explained.

Speciality companies can then use the money from license deals to fund its own internal programme.

"CLL Pharma is seeking to realise the value of its portfolio of products in pain and oncology.

We are delighted to have reached this agreement with BTG and are seeking partners for other programmes.

We believe BTG is an excellent partner for this programme," said Claude Laruelle, CLL Pharma chief executive.

Related topics Preclinical Research

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