Lycera Corp. has reached a milestone in its collaboration agreement with Merck on the study and development of small molecule therapeutic candidates to address a series of immune-mediated disorders, including inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Both companies believe that the milestone is a sign of the success of their partnership, which will continue conducting clinical investigations.
Lycera has disclosed another payment, whose value was not publicly announced, from Merck. According to a press release from Lycera, the program that the two companies are working on together was initiated in February 2013 and includes Lycera’s pipeline drug for IBD treatment, called LYC-30937.
“We are pleased to announce the achievement of this milestone with our collaborator Merck,” said the president and CEO of Lycera, Paul Sekhri. “The progress of the program provides further validation of Lycera’s leadership in modulating immune responses to treat diverse disease indications with compelling unmet needs.”
The agreement established by the two companies determined an upfront payment as well as further funding for research and the possibility to receive additional $300 million due to research, development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments. While Merck is leading the clinical development of the drug candidate and has been granted marketing and commercialization rights worldwide, Lycera will gain the royalty payments, and both development and sales milestones from the products.
The two companies have been working together since March 2011 on developing novel therapies based on retinoic acid related orphan receptor (RORγt) inhibitors. RORγt is a crucial transcription factor that coordinates both T-helper 17 (Th17) cells’ differentiation and highly pro-inflammatory mediator production, including interleukin-17 (IL-17).
LYC-30937, the lead product candidate for the treatment of IBD, is an ATPase modulator, expected to be a gut-directed therapy. It works by providing local delivery of the therapeutic agent in order to improve efficacy, in comparison with the systemic agents. It combines localized activity with targeted action to combat the immune cells that cause the disease, and they are thought to cause fewer side effects than the drugs currently available for the treatment of the conditions.