Vascular Pharmaceuticals, Janssen announce agreement

Agreement grants Janssen exclusive acquisition right following Phase II study

Kelsey Kaustinen
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Privately held Vascular Pharmaceuticals,Inc., a drug discovery company developing a therapeutic for diabetes issues,has announced the signing of an agreement with Janssen Biotech, Inc., one ofthe Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. The agreementgrants Janssen the exclusive right, at its discretion, to acquire VascularPharmaceuticals following the conclusion of a Phase II clinical study ofVPI-2690B, Vascular Pharmaceuticals' preclinical candidate for the treatment ofdiabetic nephropathy. The acquisition is contingent on pre-negotiated terms andconditions, which were not disclosed, and if Janssen exercises its right toacquire, Vascular Pharmaceuticals will receive an initial upfront payment aswell as contingent milestone payments for its rights under the agreement.
 
The agreement was announced simultaneously with news of thesuccessful completion of a $16 million Series A equity financing. IntersouthPartners and MPM Capital co-led the financing, which represents VascularPharmaceuticals' first institutional funding round. In conjunction with thefinancing, Richard Kent, M.D., partner at Intersouth Partners, and VaughnKailian, managing director of MPM Capital, will join Vascular Pharmaceuticals'board of directors. The funds will go toward the ongoing development ofVPI-2690B.
 
 
"The negative health outcomes and high cost of treatingdiabetic nephropathy place an enormous burden on diabetic patients andhealthcare spending," Dr. Richard Kent of Intersouth Partners said in apress release. "Vascular Pharma's drug shows real promise in addressingthis critical patient need, and we are excited to partner with the company atthis critical point in its growth."
 
 
VPI-2690B targets the insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-1)signaling pathway, which is stimulated by hyperglycemia. IGF-1 is a potentgrowth factor for almost all cell types in humans, and through its receptor,fuels cell growth and division in the vasculature, which in turn contributes tothe development of atherosclerotic (artery-hardening) plaques as well as "thepathological formation of new blood vessels that leads to diabetic retinopathy(persistent or acute damage to the eye) and nephropathy (kidney disease)," thecompany notes on its website. The compound binds to a site on the receptor andinhibits IGF-1-mediated smooth muscle cell proliferation stimulated byhyperglycemia.
 
 
To date, VPI-2690B has demonstrated the ability to slow thedevelopment of diabetes-associated complications in animal studies, includingnephropathy, accelerated atherosclerosis and retinopathy. 
 
"Diabetic nephropathy is the leading cause of chronickidney disease in the United States, with almost 50,000 patients per yearprogressing to dialysis as a result," Richard Shea, CEO of VascularPharmaceuticals, said in a press release. "We are excited that Intersouthand MPM have partnered with us to support our further development efforts, andare pleased to enter into this relationship with Janssen."
 
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 25.8 millionpeople were affected by diabetes in 2010, representing 8.3 percent of thepopulation, and 1.9 million people were newly diagnosed with diabetes that yearalone. Diabetes continues to rank high as a health concern, being a leading causeof heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, andbeing itself the seventh leading cause of death in the country. It is estimatedthat in 2007, diabetes costs reached $174 billion, both from direct medicalcosts and indirect costs such as disability or loss of work.

Kelsey Kaustinen

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