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Biotech Options Enzyme Inhibitors for Lung Cancer

Human lungs illustration


2 Jan. 2020. A biotechnology company developing inhaled drugs for respiratory diseases agreed to provide Johnson & Johnson with access to its technology for treating lung cancer. The deal is expected to bring Pulmatrix Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts $9.2 million in the short term, with as much as $100 million if full licensing and all milestone conditions are met.

Pulmatrix develops inhaled medications to treat serious respiratory disorders, including asthma and COPD. The company’s technology, called iSperse — short for inhaled small particles easily respirable and emitted — creates dry particles that the company says overcome a serious problem with current dry-powder inhalers, namely the sticking of medication particles in the mouth and throat, which limits delivery of drugs into the lungs where they’re needed. The powder particles are smaller, denser, and milled to be more aerodynamic to avoid being deposited in the mouth or throat.

Among therapies in early clinical stages at Pulmatrix are inhaled treatments blocking the actions of specific kinases or enzymes that contribute to lung diseases. One of those therapy candidates, code-named PUR1800, is designed to limit kinases that lead to acute exacerbations of COPD, short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is a progressive respiratory disorder that makes it difficult to breathe, and causes coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. PUR1800, says Pulmatrix, blocks inflammation in the airways resistant to steroids, suppresses inflammation from infections, and treats structural changes in airways resulting from COPD.

Under the agreement, Johnson & Johnson’s lung cancer initiative is supporting Pulmatrix’s upcoming early-stage clinical trial of PUR1800 for COPD, providing an initial fee of $7.2 million, plus an additional $2 million upon completion of the study. The agreement gives Johnson & Johnson an option to license PUR1800 and other kinase inhibitors for treating lung cancer, which would make Pulmatrix eligible for up to $91 million in additional commercial and development milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales.

“In 2020, we anticipate clinical data from the first of these inhibitors in a disease area with significant unmet medical need,” says Ted Raad, CEO at Pulmatrix in a company statement. “We look forward to collaborating with the lung cancer initiative at Johnson & Johnson as we advance this important program.”

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Johnson & Johnson.

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