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Collaboration combats cystic fibrosis
February 2011
by Lori Lesko  |  Email the author


AACHEN, Germany—In the second strategic collaboration forged in December between family-owned drugmaker The Grunenthal Group, and New York-headquartered biotech Forest Laboratories Inc., Forest acquired all rights currently held by Grunenthal for colistin and all rights previously licensed by Forest to Grunenthal for colobreathe.
Both are treatments for cystic fibrosis (CF), an inherited disease with no cure. Grunenthal divested the colistin franchise as part of its strategy to focus its business on its core pain franchise. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed, according to the Dec. 20 joint announcement.
Two weeks earlier, on Dec. 6, Forest bought co-development and commercialization rights to Grunenthal's novel oral small- molecule analgesic, GRT 6005, and its follow-on compound, GRT 6006. In another recent divestment, the German firm sold its portfolio of prescription oral contraceptives to Hungary's largest drugmaker, Gedeon Richter, in a deal worth an estimated $329 million.
Howard Solomon, chairman and CEO of Forest, says he is "pleased to have reached this agreement with Grunenthal on the heels of the recently announced collaboration between our two companies in the area of pain." Solomon believes the deal is a win-win for Forest by boosting its CF pipeline—and its commercial potential.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 30,000 people in the United States have CF, one of the most common inherited diseases among Caucasians. About 1,000 new cases of CF are diagnosed each year, and about 12 million Americans are carriers of a faulty CF gene.
The goals of CF treatment are to prevent and control lung infections; loosen and remove thick, sticky mucus from the lungs; prevent or treat blockages in the intestines; provide enough nutrition; and prevent dehydration.
Colobreathe is a novel dry powder inhaler containing colistin developed by Forest and currently being reviewed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Colistin is an antibiotic used to treat the principal bacterial infections in CF patients and belongs to a class of antibiotics called polymyxins. It can be used to treat chest infections in people with CF when these are caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Colistin is usually administered to these patients by inhalation.
"Acquiring colistin from Grunenthal is a strategic fit for Forest because it is a first step to expand our commercial capabilities in Europe, in addition to our existing presence in the UK and Ireland," Solomon says. "This acquisition also strengthens our presence in the cystic fibrosis market in Europe which is further enhanced by regaining all rights to colobreathe, a novel dry powder formulation of colistin we have developed and previously licensed to Grunenthal, and which after approval, will be available to cystic fibrosis patients across Europe."
Grunenthal is also buoyed by the deal, with an eye toward the future. Kira Goertz, Grunenthal's vice president of corporate communications, tells ddn, "Grunenthal's objective is to become the most patient-centric company and be a leader in therapy innovation based on its unique position in pain."
"Grunenthal received an attractive purchase price for the business that allows further investment in its core business," Goertz adds.
Harald F. Stock, CEO of The Grunenthal Group, sums it up: "Forest is expanding its EU market by acquiring the additional CF products from Grunenthal," he says. "We are convinced that Forest will open new and promising perspectives for CF patients."
Code: E021104



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