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.