German drug discovery service provider Evotec began working with Bayer on women’s health drugs in 2012. Since then, the partners have selected three clinical candidates and one preclinical asset, putting them on a path that could lead to a new treatment for endometriosis.
Now, Bayer and Evotec have entered into a similar deal covering polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine disorder linked to many cases of infertility and pregnancy complications.
Bayer is paying €6.5m ($7.2m) upfront to expand the collaboration. The German pharma company is also set to hand over €10m in research funding over the next five years.
Those payments will support work by Evotec and Celmatix to identify and prioritize new targets. Celmatix, a company focused on reproductive medicine and fertility, began collaborating with Evotec on women’s health projects last year.
Talking to investors after the first part of the Celmatix deal was disclosed, Cord Dohrmann, CSO at Evotec, said, “We signed a new research agreement with Celmatix to access real-life data in women's health as a basis for drug discovery, but also clinical development.”
Evotec will share payments from Bayer with Celmatix – putting Celmatix in line to receive a cut of the up to €330m Bayer may pay out as drugs discovered through the collaboration pass preclinical, clinical and sales milestones.
Bayer now has considerable first-hand experience of working with Evotec to support its decision to commit those funds to the partnership. In addition to the 2012 endometriosis collaboration, Bayer and Evotec have also entered into a five-year, multi-target research partnership targeting chronic kidney disease and other renal conditions, with this collaboration beginning in 2016.
The partners are tackling some tough indications. Earlier efforts to develop treatments for endometriosis, for example, were hindered by outstanding questions about the cause of the disease and the difficulty of creating animal models that accurately replicate the condition.
PCOS, the focus of the new Bayer-Evotec collaboration, is treated with drugs including contraceptives and clomifene, depending on whether the woman with the condition is trying to get pregnant. Some other efforts to develop new drugs against PCOS have stumbled, with Millendo Therapeutics axing an ex-AstraZeneca asset in the face of lackluster Phase IIb data.