Cardiovascular collaboration

Servier taps Plexxikon for non-peptidic rennin inhibitor project

Chris Anderson
BERKELEY, Calif.—Early last month, indepen­dent French pharmaceutical company Servier announced it would collaborate with Plexxikon Inc. whereby Plexxikon would work to discover non-peptidic inhibitors of rennin, an enzyme that is known to play role in hypertension, renal failure and vascular disease.
 
Under the terms of the deal, Plexxikon will receive an upfront payment, research funding and potential milestone payments that could total more than $100 million over the life of the col­laboration.
 
The target of the collaboration is the popula­tion of people who have high blood pressure, but don't respond to existing hypertension medica­tion. According to Plexxikon CEO Dr. K. Peter Hirth, that amounts to roughly half of the people who seek treatment for high blood pressure.
 
"Cardiovascular disease is a focus for Servier and that makes them an ideal partner to develop therapeutics for this significant unmet need," says Hirth.
 
But beyond the potential to help Servier bring new hypertension therapies to market is the added benefit of Plexxikon broadening its research scope and expertise. Founded in 2001, the company has thus far focused its proprietary Scaffold-Based Drug Discovery platform in three areas: kinases, nuclear receptors and phosphodi­esterases.
 
"What is really significant here is that we have opened another pro­tein family using our approach," says Hirth. "Our work with Servier is only focused on rennin, but it will also validate our approach to this protease family and that rep­resents a great opportunity for us to develop additional compounds in addition those we have already in development.
 
For Servier, working with Plexxikon should provide it with novel compound leads in a rela­tively short time-frame as it looks to build on its expertise in cardio­vascular therapies.
 
"Servier is entering into this collaboration with Plexxikon as a key step in our strategy to expand our efforts in the development of new drugs for cardiovascular dis­eases," says Dr. Emmanuel Canet, vice president Servier research and development. "This partner­ship will expedite the development of novel rennin inhibitors with potential use in therapeutic indi­cations with high unmet medical need."
 
Successful and quick develop­ment of rennin-inhibitors could also have strong implications to both companies' bottom lines. According market research firm Datamonitor, the global market for hypertensive drug sales should top $50 billion by 2009, so bringing to market a therapeutic that has the potential to effectively treat the high percentage of patients who don't respond well to current ther­apies could grab a significant share of that market.
 
While the agreement between the two companies has the poten­tial to earn royalties for Plexxikon, Servier will be responsible for the development and commercializa­tion of products and will receive an exclusive worldwide license for any rennin inhibitors developed in the field of cardiovascular dis­ease.

Chris Anderson

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