The German contract research organisation (CRO) said it “has reached two important pre-clinical milestones for the transition of two projects…into late-stage discovery and pre-clinical development."
Evotec declined to go into specifics when contacted by Outsourcing-pharma, but did say "We work on this collaboratively at both Evotec and Bayer facilities, across all multiple research disciplines."
Bayer hired Evotec in 2012, tasking it with developing three clinical trial-ready endometriosis treatments within five years.
The first of these candidates entered preclinical development in 2014.
The importance of the Bayer contract was highlighted by COO Mario Polywka during Evotec’s third quarter conference call in November.
“The Bayer collaboration is possibly the world leading effort in addressing pain and inflammation associated with endometriosis. This continues to be highly successful for both companies and we expect significant milestones still to come from this program in the future.”
Under the agreement, Evotec was paid €12m ($13.1m) upfront and is entitled to receive up to €580m in milestone payments. The contractor is also in line for royalties from the sale of any candidate that is approved.
Billion dollar market
Endometriosis affects 200m women worldwide and at present there is no cure.
Those treatments that are available - gonadotropin–releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists like AbbVie's off-patent market leader Lupron, progestins, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and contraceptives – are used to manage pain rather than to address the underlying causes of the condition.
Evotec and Bayer have only said they are working on “non-surgical treatments that will preserve fertility and alleviate pain” so it is not clear if they are also targeting endometriosis symptoms of the disease itself.
But even if any of the drugs Evotec is working on for Bayer is approved, the German drugmaker is likely to face competition.
AbbVie in keen to replace Lupron and has licensed Neurocrine Biosciences’ endometriosis treatment Elagolix - an oral gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonists.
The drug is currently progressing in Phase III trials.