A DREAM alliance in pain management

Evotec and Apeiron Biologics build pain alliance around key molecule for pain regulation

Jeffrey Bouley
HAMBURG, Germany—Marking another in a string of alliancesthat it has announced since October, Evotec AG reported that as of lateOctober, it has entered into a collaboration with Apeiron Biologics AG toinitially identify small-molecule modulators of Downstream Regulatory ElementAntagonistic Modulator (DREAM), a novel target involved in perception ofvarious pain mechanisms.
 
 
Evotec will apply its expertise in cellular assaydevelopment with an eye toward opportunities for the project to rapidly moveinto hit identification and beyond, possibly expanding the collaboration "indue course," notes Dr. Werner Lanthaler, Evotec's CEO.
 
"Apeiron is certainly one of the most exciting young biotechcompanies in Europe," he notes. "We are happy that through the optimal use ofR&D outsourcing, Evotec can add value here."
 
 
Apeiron's CEO, Dr. Hans Loibner, says that, "Combining ourtwo companies' skills is an excellent way to move forward with this innovativeand promising project," noting that the two companies have worked together inthe past and that he continues to be impressed by the quality of the workperformed at Evotec. The two companies initially forged their relationship inFebruary 2006, also around small-molecule discovery efforts for pain relief.
 
 
Reporting on his company's third-quarter results a coupleweeks after the Apeiron announcement and about 12 days before announcing a collaborationon a neurological disease target with Merck KGaA, Lanthaler was bullish on theseveral recent collaboration deals—but with a focus on the need for deepeningexisting relationships, like the one with Apeiron, not simply forming a largernumber of partnerships.
 
"We see new alliances also fueling our growth going forwardand we were very happy to report some of these new partnerships in the lastcouple of weeks to you, but more importantly, we see an even deeper and broaderpartnership with our existing alliance partners where these partnerships reallytend to deliver for the first time real potential biotech upside going forwardas well," he told investors.
 
Moreover, Lanthaler says, some 75 percent of Evotec'srevenues are generated within long-term alliances, making them a key focus.
 
The company, Lanthaler adds, seeks to build an even strongportfolio of long-term, high-quality partners in drug discovery alliances andproduct development partnerships, with an eye toward selectively increasingEvotec's risk component in selected partnerships.
 
"When we started Action Plan 2012 about 18 months ago, wehad a clear mission: First, to define a highly innovative, core business in thedrug discovery space where we want to lead the market in the high-qualityintegrated segment. We want to, as a second component, build a sustainablegrowth company where a minimum approach on a year-to-year growth target shouldgo beyond 15 percent," he says, pointing out that companies don't generallyearn the "right" to expand heavily into new areas unless they are deliveringsolidly on the core business.
 
 
To that end, he notes, Evotec is working to expand its"quality leadership position in small-molecule drug discovery" and then investin "highly innovative approaches to open new therapeutic routes in majormarkets," such as beta cell technology, regenerative medicine and oncology.
 
Looking to the Apeiron collaboration specifically and itspotential, Lanthaler notes that DREAM is a key molecule for pain regulation andthat by binding on the respective DNA-promoter region, DREAM inhibits thesynthesis of the endogenous opioid precursor prodynorphin, thus making it apossible new target for the treatment of pain. He says that knock-out mice havedemonstrated that loss of DREAM broadly reduces pain, ranging from acute causesto inflammatory effects to chronic neuropathic pain.
 
Other deals announced shortly before and after the Apeirondeal were a fragment-based drug discovery alliance with Shionogi & Co Ltd.to identify small molecule modulators of various protein-protein interactiontargets; a license and collaboration agreement with Zhejiang JingxinPharmaceutical Co. for EVT 201, a novel potential treatment for insomnia; andthe aforementioned collaboration on an undisclosed neurological disease targetwith Merck KGaA.
 
 

Jeffrey Bouley

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