ImmuPharma chief confident and upbeat on the prospects for Lupuzor
ImmuPharma (LON:IMM) chief executive Dimitri Dimitriou was remarkably relaxed yesterday when quizzed about the $5.7 billion bid battle that could hamper the progress of its lead drug candidate, Lupuzor.
The uncertainty has been caused by Valeant Pharma’s unexpected tilt at rival Cephalon.
The latter is a partner of ImmuPharma and has taken over the development of its treatment for Lupus, which, if it makes it to market, has blockbuster potential.
Lupus is an auto immune disease, in which the body's own system attacks normal, healthy tissue.
The deal with Cephalon is worth around $500 million in milestone and royalty payments, so there is a lot at stake.
Much will depend on the stance taken by Valeant if its offer – probably an improved deal - is finally accepted by Cephalon investors.
A conference call last week revealed Valeant to be more interested in maximising cashflows than getting the most from the pipeline of potential products.
If, as a result of this strategy, Lupuzor is handed back to ImmuPharma, then it may actually be a long-term positive for the company.
“(It) is a highly valuable asset,” Dimitriou told analysts yesterday.
“The contract we have is a very strong contract."
“There are certain obligations for the licensee, though nothing has changed so far.
The ImmuPharma chief executive pointed out that there had been a great deal of interest in Lupuzor when the group initially partnered in 2008, while the value of the drug will only have increased in that time.
Benlysta, a rival product launched by GlaxoSmithKline and Human Genome Sciences (GSK-HGS), has underlined the market potential of the treatments in this area of medicine.
Peak sales of Benlysta are estimated to be $4 billion, but with 1.5 million sufferers in the G7 alone, there is plenty of room for a rival such as Lupuzor.
The GSK-HGS product has also set the benchmark for pricing at around the $35,000 per year mark.
Phase IIb trials of Lupuzor are ongoing in the US and interim data is expected in the third quarter.
“The previous Phase IIb study conducted by ImmuPharma in Europe demonstrated striking response rates and efficacy data,” said Matrix analyst Navid Malik in a recent note to clients.
ImmuPharma chief executive Dimitriou, meanwhile, suggested the Valeant bid may have no lasting impact on the development timeline of Lupuzor, which was discovered by France’s Centre Nationale Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). He also gave a hint to the future strategy if the rights were handed back.
“There are many companies that are interested (in Lupuzor) so we could do different types of deals,” he explained.
“We could do local partnerships where we might keep a territory or we could do another worldwide deal. We have many options.”
Another CNRS discovery is the company’s cancer drug, IPP-204106, which has a dual action in targeting cell proliferation and the development of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis.
The results from the early stage phase I/IIa trials have been encouraging. “With Lupuzor out of our hands we are progressing the cancer drug which is doing fantastically well at the moment,” Dimitriou added.
The company is attempting to reformulate the IPP-204106 cancer compound into nanoparticles that could make it up to ten times more effective in certain cell lines.
Currently 204106 is being earmarked for use in difficult-to-treat cancers such as brain tumors and pancreatic cancer and prostate cancers.
Final results of I/IIa trials will be announced by the end of the first half before it goes to a IIb study.