Almirall signs atopic dermatitis R&D deal with Hitgen

Almirall has signed a new research collaboration with Chinese biotech HitGen, to find potential new oral therapies for moderate to severe atopic dermatitis – otherwise known as eczema.

The Spanish dermatology specialist is conducting a multi-target research collaboration with companies using a technology involving DNA-encoded libraries, for targets in atopic dermatitis to develop novel oral chemical entities for patients suffering from moderate to severe atopic dermatitis.

DNA-encoded library technology allows for large-scale screening and synthesis of small molecule compounds, with the aim of accelerating the drug discovery process.

Almirall’s move is interesting given that Sanofi has shown that drugs for eczema are highly marketable with its injected drug Dupixent (dupilumab).

But patients may prefer to take oral medicines instead, creating a possible market opportunity for any company able to make a similarly effective oral drug.

Almirall has therefore entered into a collaboration with HitGen, a privately held biotechnology company established since 2012 in Chengdu, China, to establish an advanced lead generation platform based on their DNA-encoded libraries for this specific target.

With a library of nearly 400 billion compounds, Almirall hopes that HitGen will be able to identify compounds that will react with molecular targets linked with eczema.

Under the terms of the agreement, Almirall will provide reagents and material to screen the targets.

HitGen will prosecute screening, hit ID, confirmation and early testing against the selected targets leveraging its proprietary unique DEL Screening platform.

Almirall’s chief scientific officer Bhushan Hardas said: “This agreement keeps us on track to achieve our goal of becoming a leading medical dermatology company. We look forward to collaborate with HitGen in identifying new molecules with the potential of becoming new treatment options for patients with atopic dermatitis”.

Based in Barcelona, Almirall’s total revenues in 2018 were 811 million euros, and had more than 1,800 employees devoted to science.

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