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Worth weighting for?
August 2011
by Kimberley Sirk  |  Email the author
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark—Zealand Pharma AS, a Copenhagen-based biopharmaceutical company specializing in peptide research, and global pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim announced in mid-June an exclusive global license and collaboration agreement for dual-acting glucagon and GLP-1 receptor agonists that may hold promise for treatment of patients with type 2 diabetes and patients with serious body weight issues.  
 
The biological rationale for developing the primary novel compound, ZP2929, is based on the pharmacology of the gut peptide hormone oxyntomodulin. Oxyntomodulin is released by the L-cells of the small intestine after meals, and is believed to exert its biological effects by activating both the glucagon receptor and the GLP-1 receptor. The compound has shown in preclinical studies the ability to achieve glycemic control while causing significant and sustained weight loss in humans. ZP2929 would be delivered to the patient by once-daily injection.
 
Some estimates are that more than half of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese, based on body mass index measurements. Many chronic conditions are associated with being overweight or obese, including type 2 diabetes. Increasing numbers of children are overweight, and type 2 diabetes is a growing concern.  
 
In their research collaboration, Zealand Pharma and Boehringer Ingelheim will focus on the characterization, identification and development of additional glucagon/GLP-1 dual agonists for the exploration of new indications, formulations and delivery systems.  
 
As part of the agreement, Boehringer Ingelheim obtains global development and commercialization rights to ZP2929. Zealand Pharma will be responsible for conducting the first Phase I study of the promising compound and Boehringer Ingelheim will fund the research, development and commercialization of products under the agreement.
 
Depending on the achievement of development, regulatory and commercial milestones, Zealand Pharma is eligible to receive payments for ZP2929 and may also receive additional milestone payments if other products covered by the collaboration are advanced through development. The payment may also cover cost reimbursements and research funding.
 
Zealand Pharma is entitled to tiered royalties on global sales of products under the agreement. The company will, though, retain co-promotion rights in Scandinavia. Additional details were not disclosed, and company officials were not available for comment.  
 
David H. Solomon, president and CEO of Zealand Pharma, said in a prepared statement that his company is pleased to partner with Boehringer Ingelheim, especially since the company has redoubled its efforts in the diabetes space.  
 
"Together with Boehringer Ingelheim, we look forward to advancing the development of ZP2929 into Phase I as part of our joint efforts to bring novel and better treatments to the market to help improve the lives of diabetes patients," Solomon said.  
 
"Our focus to develop innovative diabetes treatments is reinforced by the in- licensing of a very interesting compound from Zealand Pharma which complements Boehringer Ingelheim's pipeline in diabetes and metabolic diseases very well," offered Dr. Klaus Dugi, Boehringer Ingelheim's corporate senior vice president of medicine, in a media release. "With our first diabetes treatment linagliptin recently approved by the FDA, we have a manifest for Boehringer Ingelheim's own research strength and its capability to bring novel medication to the patients. We are therefore pleased to bundle our R&D experience with Zealand Pharma for further projects in diabetes and obesity."
 
Boehringer Ingelheim reps say this project is not part of its strategic diabetes alliance with Eli Lilly & Co.
 
Zealand Pharma is a public biopharmaceutical company based in Copenhagen, with a mature and growing clinical pipeline of innovative peptide based drugs. The company's lead product is lixisenatide, a once-daily GLP-1 in late-stage Phase III development in collaboration with Sanofi for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
 
Zealand Pharma specializes in the discovery, optimization and development of novel peptide drugs with favorable therapeutic attributes, and all drug candidates in its pipeline have been identified through the company's own drug discovery activities.
 
The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world's 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 145 affiliates and more than 42,000 employees. Founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel products for human and veterinary medicine.
 
Code: E081105

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