Sanofi has agreed to pay Glenmark Pharmaceuticals $50 million up front for the rights to GBR500, a monoclonal antibody in development to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases. Mumbai-based Glenmark could score an additional $613 million in milestone payments as the molecule winds its way toward the market.
Shares of Glenmark, traded on the Bombay Stock Exchange, initially surged more than 20% on news of the deal, which is unusual in that it involves a biologic drug candidate. Indian companies have forged several R&D pacts and licensing deals with big pharma firms in recent years, but they have focused on small molecules or generic versions of biologics. A year ago, in fact, Glenmark licensed small-molecule pain treatment candidates to Sanofi.
GBR500 is an antagonist of the VLA-2 (21) integrin, a protein that helps white blood cells stick to inflammation sites. The protein also plays a role in the release of signaling molecules involved in inflammation. The drug candidate is one of two biologics in Glenmark’s pipeline; it has completed Phase I trials in the U.S. and is poised to begin Phase II trials as a Crohn’s disease treatment.
Indian drug firms have been working diligently to move beyond generic drugs and contract manufacturing and into the drug discovery arena, notes Nailesh Bhatt, managing director of the advisory firm Proximare. Companies including Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Biocon, and Reliance Pharmaceuticals are making headway in biologics, he notes. Interest from U.S. and European companies in licensing drug candidates from Indian firms has been strong recently, Bhatt adds.