At present there are few treatment options for tissue fibrosis, which is defined as the formation of excessive connective that disrupts the function of an organ. Surgical removal is the main approach, although corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs are also used to slow progression.
Estimating the number of people suffering from tissue fibrosis – and therefore the size of the potential market for an effective treatment – is difficult as estimates usually focus on specific organs.
For example, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 20 million citizens suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD), which develops into end stage renal disease (ESRD) as a result of gradual kidney fibrosis.
Pulmonary fibrosis –caused by damage to the lungs that results in the build-up of scar tissue – is believed to affect 128,100 in the US and to be responsible for 40,000 deaths.
Evotec cited a 2011 study suggesting that “approximately 40% of all natural deaths in the developed world can be attributed to chronic fibro-proliferative diseases.
Multi organ targets
Evotec and Pfizer plan to develop treatments for fibrosis in a range of tissue, commenting that: “Under the terms of this licence and collaboration agreement, scientists at Evotec and Pfizer will explore potential novel mechanisms as targeted anti-fibrotics in multi-organ fibrosis.”
Few other details were provided, although Evotec’s contribution to the agreement will be its drug discovery platform with Pfizer providing “key technologies and industrial scope as well as pharmaceutical development and marketing expertise.”
Evotec spokeswoman Gabriele Hansen told us: "The programme will focus on key cell types and mechanisms that are responsible for critical early events in tissue fibrosis" adding that "compounds will be screened for potential to interfere with this mechanism.”
She added that: “Alliance management as well as a significant part of the collaboration will be allocated in Goettingen. However, there will be key activities at other sites, too.”
The drug discovery deal will earn the Germany-based contract research organisation (CRO) an upfront payment, developmental milestone payments and sales royalties, although again specifics were not disclosed.