Back to school
June 2011
by Kimberley Sirk  |  Email the author


LAUSANNE, Switzerland—In early May, Swiss biopharma developer Debiopharm Group and Yale University announced an exclusive worldwide license agreement to advance the development and commercialization of Debio 1036, a first-in-class inhibitor for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
Debiopharm is a global company with a focus on serious medical concerns including cancer, and Yale is both an educational and clinical research powerhouse.
Debio 1036 is an orally available small molecule that antagonizes a key mediator in the inflammation process. This therapeutically important target is unique in several ways due to its action early on in the inflammatory cascade and its ability to regulate cell growth and apoptosis. The Debio 1036 project aims at developing inhibitors targeting a fundamental inflammatory pathway, which plays essential roles in myriad diseases progression and severity.  
The drug candidate is now in the preclinical development process, and Yale representatives indicated in a prepared statement that they are pleased the collaboration has taken shape now to guide Debio 1036 through both the preclinical and clinical development phases.  
For its part, Debiopharm officials say that Yale's pathbreaking work in dovetailing scientific disciplines key to the drug discovery process helped entice the company into this arrangement. Debiopharm specifically references Yale's leadership in marrying chemistry and biology to identify and validate lead drug candidates as representing a new approach to treating inflammatory disease.
According to the parties, Debiopharm and Yale had several interactions regarding technologies available for license. Over time, they say they came to know what the other party had interest in and had to offer toward therapeutic development.  
"Debio 1036 represents the intersection of interest, opportunity and potential," says Debiopharm Director of Corporate Affairs and Communication Maurice Wagner. "We anticipate that there will be others such opportunities as the Debiopharm-Yale relationship expands. The Debio 1036 approach is novel in the mechanism it uses to address disease, a method that could have broader applications. A number of immune-mediated diseases might benefit from this therapeutic approach and are currently being investigated."  
Yale's more than 200-year storied history and extensive research capabilities were irresistible to Debiopharm, Wagner adds.
"Yale has depth and sophistication of research; Debiopharm has the same in drug development and partnering," he says. "Together, [they are] a very potent combination." The parties see a future where Debiopharm uses its skill in collaboration to rapidly deploy new drugs to market.
"Whenever Debiopharm in-licenses a molecule, its objective is to develop it and to make it available to patients worldwide via a competent partner disposing of a marketing and sales force," says Wagner. "This applies in the case of Debio 1036 as well. Our intention is to develop the drug and to register it in most if not all countries of the world, and to thus make it available and affordable both in developed economies and in emerging countries."
"The relationship with Debiopharm is a stellar example of the complementarities between academic discovery and commercial development. This discovery is further evidence of the valuable contributions academic institutions can make on behalf of patients. We sincerely believe this agreement represents the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between Yale and Debiopharm for both Debio 1036 and other programs at Yale," added Richard C. Levin, Yale University's president, in a prepared statement.  
Debiopharm likewise expresses high hopes for success when academia and forward-thinking pharma partners come together.  
"Debiopharm will demonstrate once again that academic research partnered with commercialization expertise can come together to develop unconventional and effective clinical agents to help patients," says Wagner.  
Debiopharm Group is a Swiss-based global biopharmaceutical group of companies with a focus on the development of prescription drugs that target unmet medical needs. The group in-licenses, develops and/or co-develops promising biological and small-molecule drug candidates having reached clinical development Phases I, II or III, as well as early-stage candidates.
The company says its primary objective is to develop products for global registration and maximum commercial potential. Those products are then out-licensed to pharmaceutical partners for sales and marketing. It is also active in the field of companion diagnostics with an eye toward the burgeoning field of personalized medicine.
The company also claims that it independently funds the worldwide development of all of its products while providing expertise in preclinical and clinical trials, manufacturing, drug delivery and formulation and in the area of regulatory affairs.

Debiopharm and Aurigene to develop oncology pathway inhibitor
LAUSANNE, Switzerland—In April, Debiopharm S.A. signed and agreement with Aurigene Discovery Technologies Ltd., a Bangalore-based biotechnology firm, for the development and commercialization of Debio 1142, a novel inhibitor of an undisclosed oncology pathway.  
The Debio 1142 project aims to develop inhibitors targeting a key oncology pathway that plays essential roles in various solid tumors, including resistance to chemotherapy, said Dr. Rolland-Yves Mauvernay, president and founder of Debiopharm, in a statement.  
"We are very excited about this new collaboration with Aurigene. Their business model offers a one-stop solution for structure-guided drug design, lead optimization and preclinical work," Mauvernay stated.  
The two companies have been collaborating for five years, noted CSN Murthy, CEO of Aurigene.
"The relationship between Debiopharm and Aurigene demonstrates the strategic fit between organizations with complimentary scientific skills," Murthy stated. "We are happy that we have the opportunity to continue to work with Debiopharm in a unique business model that has been tailor-made to meet each partners' needs."
Code: E061105

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