Companies converge on pain

UK’s Convergence Pharmaceuticals, Selcia join forces to develop new drugs for chronic pain

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CAMBRIDGE, England—In a move calculated to capture a chunk of the global chronic pain market, newly established GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) spin-out Convergence Pharmaceuticals has joined forces with contract research organization (CRO) Selcia Ltd. to identify and develop more effective drugs for treating chronic pain.

Convergence, focused on the development of novel and high-value analgesic medicines, and Selcia, a CRO, have pooled their resources to meet shared goals, the companies state.

Under the terms of the agreement, Convergence Pharmaceuticals will apply its ion channel biology platform, medicinal chemistry know-how and preclinical development expertise, formed out of GSK in October, to Selcia's medicinal chemistry support services, according to reports. Financial terms were not disclosed.

"Following the successful launch of Convergence Pharmaceuticals with a $35 million fundraising, and in line with our business strategy, this collaboration uniquely enables our goal of identifying novel, high-quality, targeted molecules for the treatment of chronic pain," says Ged Giblin, head of chemistry and preclinical development at Convergence. "We have a team of highly experienced pain scientists … and look forward to maximizing the capabilities of Selcia's expert medicinal and synthetic chemists."

Convergence's pipeline currently has two candidates in clinical development, and six earlier-stage compounds, he says.

Lead neuropathic pain candidate CNV1014802 is a small-molecule, state-dependent sodium channel blocker targeting the Nav1.7 sodium channel, Giblin says. The compound is ready to undergo Phase II proof-of-concept evaluation.

Pain candidate CNV2197944 is a first-in-class, small-molecule, state-dependent calcium channel blocker designed to selectively inhibit highly active Cav2.2 channels, he says. This candidate is poised to start in Phase I trials.

Dr. Hans Fliri, managing director of Ongan, Essex, England-based Selcia, says, "We have a proven track record of delivering both clinical candidates and added value to our partners' research programs. Our customers are able to utilize a flexible, experienced, productive resource and … proprietary technology."

In the U.K. alone, four out of five initial visits to the general practitioner involve pain as the primary symptom, and prescription rates for analgesic medications are the second highest, Selcia states. By 2023, the chronic pain market in the seven major pharmaceutical markets is predicted to reach more than $47 billion.

In the same seven pharmaceutical markets, 160 million people are estimated to suffer from osteoarthritis, 36 million people are estimated to suffer from chronic low back pain and sciatica and more than 10 million people are estimated to suffer from neuropathic pain, according to reports.

The five major European markets (Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the U.K.) collectively will grow at a 1 to 3 percent pace, as will Canada, according to IMS Health. The United States will remain the single largest pharmaceutical market, with 3 to 5 percent growth expected next year. Pharmaceutical sales in the U.S. will reach $320 to $330 billion in 2011, up from $310 billion forecast for this year—not including the impact of off-invoice discounts or rebates.

Commenting on the launch of Convergence in October and the successful fundraising, Dr. Clive Dix, CEO of Convergence, said, "We are delighted to have worked closely with GSK to successfully transfer these clinical assets to Convergence Pharmaceuticals. The lead compounds offer critical advantages for the development and commercialization of novel analgesics to address the need for innovative treatments in the high-value chronic pain market.

"Our team of experts bring a strong knowledge of the science and pipeline and will focus on advancing these drugs through clinical development," Dix adds. "We look forward to exploring commercial opportunities for these compounds at the relevant time. Given market conditions, we are pleased to have raised such a significant amount of funding, one of the largest European biotechnology Series A funding rounds in recent years, and feel this is a strong endorsement of the quality of the company, its products, science and the staff within it."

Selcia has two operating divisions, Selcia Discovery and Selcia Radiolabeling, operating from a modern facility in Ongar.

Selcia Discovery provides integrated drug discovery services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. These services include in vitro biology, screening, fragment screening, medicinal, organic and analytical chemistry and in vitro ADME/PK evaluation, as well as in vivo PK with a strategic partner.

Selcia's scientists act as integrated project teams within the customer group striving to produce viable drug candidates against its partners' biological targets, the company states.

Selcia and Gilead Sciences extend liver disease drug discovery collaboration

ONGAR, U.K.—Selcia Ltd. also recently announced that it has expanded an ongoing drug discovery collaboration agreement with Gilead Sciences Inc. Building on an established partnership following significant progress made to date, Selcia's chemists and biologists will continue to provide integrated drug discovery services to support Gilead's liver disease research programs.

According to the companies, scientists from both companies have interacted well together and have made successful progress against some difficult targets.

"This represents a significant step forward in the development of Selcia's Discovery services and further cements our position as a strategic and trusted partner for integrated drug discovery," says Selcia Managing Director Dr. Hans Fliri. "We look forward to continuing to support Gilead in their search for new drugs to treat liver diseases and in fulfilling their longer term objectives."

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