LONDON—In a new effort to take aim at eye disease, twocompanies have their sights set on glaucoma, with Proximagen Group PLC andspecialty ophthalmic pharmaceutical company Altacor Ltd. announcing the signingof a collaborative research and development agreement. Per the agreement,Altacor will take over the research and development of PRX00933, Proximagen'slead compound from its 5HT2c program, for the treatment of glaucoma. Altacorwill be responsible for the preclinical development costs and, under theagreement, will have an option for exclusive global rights to ophthalmicindications. Financial details were not disclosed.
"We are delighted by this agreement with Altacor, one of theU.K.'s most respected ophthalmic specialty pharmaceutical companies, toprogress the development of PRX00933 in a new indication," Kenneth Mulvany, CEOof Proximagen, said in a press release. "This deal is another example of thesuccessful execution of Proximagen's strategy of retaining certain rights toprograms with the costs of development being funded by a partner. In this case,we will be retaining rights for all indications of PRX00933 outside the fieldof ophthalmology."
Proximagen acquired the 5HT2c program, which includesPRX00933, when it purchased Cambridge Biotechnology from Swedish OrphanBiovitrum in 2009. 5HT2c agonists have shown to have some potential as glaucomatreatments by reducing intraocular pressure, which is often associated withglaucoma.
PRX00933 is an agonist at the 5HT2c receptor with the potentialto treat psychiatric and ophthalmology disorders, diabetes, epilepsy, urinaryincontinence and obesity, as it was originally developed as a targeted approachfor controlling the safety center of the brain, thereby achieving weightcontrol. Proximagen and Altacor's collaborative research program will focus ondeveloping PRX00933 in glaucoma, using the existing clinical package to aid indevelopment.
"PRX00933 is a highly interesting molecule with thepotential to deliver a novel complementary mechanism in the treatment ofglaucoma. Altacor is excited to add this project to its expanding pipeline asit is synergistic with existing projects and can be fast-tracked to theclinic," Fran Crawford, CEO of Altacor, said in a press release. "If thedevelopment program fulfills its promise, this product will add significantlyto the clinical armamentarium in the treatment of this increasingly commoncondition. This deal is a further step in building Altacor's presence inophthalmology as a specialty pharma company with growing sales and a strongpipeline of development products."
Glaucoma is a chronic condition in which the optic nerve isdamaged. As Altacor explains on its website, "untreated elevated [intraocularpressure] causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve and loss of retinalfibers, resulting in a typical pattern of visual fields loss which isprogressive and permanent. Initially, this is only noticeable using specialtests, but if allowed to progress, it can lead to 'tunnel vision' and ultimately,loss of vision." Some treatments, including surgery, can slow the progression,but there is no cure as of yet. The company currently has four products withinits pipeline indicated for glaucoma: ALT 022 for steroid-induced glaucoma, ALT401 for glaucoma surgery (orphan), ALT 004/a and ALT 025. ALT 401 is still inthe formulation stage, ALT 022 and ALT 025 are in the preclinical stage and ALT004/a has reached the regulatory stage.
Proximagen says it has no predictions as to PRX00933'scommercial potential, but there is certainly no lack of demand, as the globalophthalmology market was worth more than $12 billion in 2008, according to DatamonitorStakeholder Opinion: Ophthalmology 2010.Glaucoma, which is listed as the second leading cause for blindness by theWorld Health Organization after cataracts, represented the single biggestmarket within that sum, with sales exceeding $5 billion. More than two millionpeople are affected by glaucoma in the United States alone, and approximately120,000 are blind from the eye disease, which accounts for 9 percent to 12percent of all cases of blindness within the nation.