Per the licensing agreement, LEO Pharma will gain exclusive rights to develop and commercialize JW Pharmaceutical’s (JWP) new atopic dermatitis (AD) drug candidate, JW1601. The global rights agreement excludes Korea, where JWP will maintain exclusive rights.
JWP will receive $17m (€14.5m) upfront and up to $385m in development and sales milestones, potentially receiving a total of $402m. Royalties will be accrued by JWP based on sales.
JWP signed global rights to develop JW1601 in May 2017 and has plans to submit an investigational new drug (IND) application to begin a Phase I clinical trial within the year.
JW1601 is an IND candidate that, according to the company, works to block the activation and migration of the immune cells that cause atopic dermatitis.
According to Kim Kjoller EVP of Global R&D at LEO Pharma, the compound is a small molecule drug; while biologics for AD are in clinical trials, LEO pharma wanted to acquire a small molecule solution as biologics are often “cumbersome” to patients, said Kjoller.
The drug is also said to block itching by acting selectively on the histamine H4 receptor. “Many AD patients describe the disease as the itch that rashes. So, I mean it is important to address the itch,” said Kjoller.
Building on the Bayer acquisition
We recently reported that LEO Pharma acquired Bayer’s dermatology line in an aim to become a global leader in dermatology. LEO had a patient base of 80m per year, at the time of reporting, with a hope of reaching 125m per year by 2025. The acquisition of Bayer RX saw LEO acquire global product rights in 14 countries.
As a result of the previous acquisition, LEO gained a portfolio that included branded topical prescription treatments, and topical steroids for the treatment of acne, fungal skin infections and rosacea. The licensing agreement with JWP will add an atopic dermatitis drug to their portfolio.
Kjoller told us, “I think the acquisition of the Bayer dermatologic portfolio, basically, you can say, expanded our offerings into dermatology.” According to him, the acquisition gave LEO a pipeline and a place within the medical dermatology market.
“[The Bayer] acquisition gave us more access into the dermatologic field and obviously that does put us in a very strong position,” he further explained.