Bristol-Myers secures option to buy Danish firm behind inhaled IPF drug

Bristol-Myers Squibb has secured an exclusive option to acquire Galecto Biotech and gain worldwide rights to its lead asset TD139, a pipeline drug for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and other pulmonary fibrotic conditions.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a major area of unmet medical need, and the first drugs developed to treat the disease, Roche’s Esbriet and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ofev were approved in the US last month.

BMS already has another drug in its pipeline which targets the disease (BMS-986020) but has secured a novel deal which allows it to buy out the Copenhagen-based Galecto Biotech if its lead compound successfully completes phase I trials.

The deal could involve payments up to $444 million, which includes the option fee, an option exercise fee and subsequent clinical and regulatory milestone payments. The agreement will help Galecto fund its clinical trial, and allow BMS to see how well the drug has performed before buying the rights and the company.

One of the key differences of the drug to the two newly launched treatments is that it is an inhaled treatment, rather than oral medicine.

“Delivering innovative medicines that halt or slow the progression of fibrotic diseases is a key part of our R&D strategy to build a sustainable pipeline,” said Francis Cuss, MB BChir, FRCP, executive vice president and chief scientific officer, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “TD139 provides Bristol-Myers Squibb an opportunity to advance the company’s fibrosis development programme with the addition of a promising compound that has the potential to modulate multiple disease pathways.”

The drug targets Galectin-3, a protein which binds to carbohydrate structures in the body, and plays a central role in various types of fibrosis. By inhibiting the protein’s binding ability, galectin-3 inhibitors represent a promising approach to treat diseases that exhibit galectin-3 expression such as IPF, a chronic, progressive form of lung disease characterised by the scarring of lung tissue for which there are limited treatment options. TD139 is a highly potent, specific inhibitor of the galactoside-binding pocket of galectin-3 formulated for inhalation, which enables direct targeting of the fibrotic tissue in the lungs, while minimising systemic exposure.

Galectin-3 is also understood to have a role in cardiovascular disease and cancer. Other companies, such as US-based Galectin Therapeutics are developing Galectin-3 inhibitors as treatments for the fatty liver disease Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), another area of great emerging interest in the sector.

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