Galapagos (Belgium) and MorphoSys (Germany) recently announced that they have entered into an exclusive global license agreement with Novartis. The Swiss big-pharma partner has acquired the rights to MOR106, an antibody capable of treating immune disorders such as eczema. The deal involves an up-front payment of EUR 95 million, with potential milestone payments of EUR 850 million to follow.
MOR106 is an antibody that may be able to treat eczema and multiple other common autoimmune diseases. The antibody was generated in a collaboration between Galapagos and MorphoSys and is currently undergoing a Phase II clinical trial (named IGUANA - started May 2018). The first known antibody directed against the cytokine interleukin-17C (IL-17C), MOR106 has been shown in a Phase I trial last year to be effective against atopic dermatitis (AD). It is also under investigation for other indications, after positive clinical studies have showed its potential as a treatment for multiple other autoimmune diseases.
A debilitating disease
The main indication MOR106 is being investigated for, AD, is a form of skin inflammation affecting about 20% of people worldwide at some point in their lives. A type of eczema, AD commonly afflicts children, with approximately 8% of adults and 14% of children currently suffering. Symptoms include itchy, red, swollen and cracked skin and can significantly impact upon the patient’s quality of life. With no known cure, and limited treatment options, there is significant medical need for innovative treatments to help patients with this debilitating disease.
This collaboration with Novartis will enable us to accelerate and broaden the development of MOR106, beyond our current focus on atopic dermatitis, and to exploit the potential of MOR106 to the maximum. - Simon Moroney, MorphoSys
Under the terms of the global license agreement between Novartis and Galapagos/MorphoSys, all parties will be cooperating to broaden the existing development plan for MOR106 in AD. Novartis will be bearing all future research, development, manufacturing and commercialization costs related to MOR106, but Galapagos and MorphoSys will continue conducting additional trials to support development of MOR106 in AD, as well as exploring the potential of MOR106 in additional indications other than AD. Onno van de Stolpe, CEO of Galapagos, says:
“Securing a strong and committed partner for MOR106 helps the program, and also enables us to allocate more resources elsewhere. It is very gratifying to announce this collaboration with Novartis, an immunology & dermatology powerhouse, to broadly expand the development and pave the path to potential commercialization of MOR106.”
Sharing is caring
Under the terms of their 2008 agreement, Galapagos and MorphoSys will share all Novartis payments and funding equally. This will include the upfront payment of EUR 95 million (USD 111 million), in addition to the funding of the current and future MOR106 program. Pending certain milestone achievements, Galapagos and MorphoSys will also be eligible to receive up to EUR 850 million (USD 1 billion). These significant milestone payments would in turn be subsidized by tiered royalties on net commercial sales.
We are pleased to work with Galapagos and MorphoSys who have a proven track record of developing drug candidates for severe inflammatory diseases. - Eric Hughes, Novartis
Dr. Simon Moroney, Chief Executive Officer of MorphoSys AG, commented:
“This collaboration with Novartis will enable us to accelerate and broaden the development of MOR106, beyond our current focus on atopic dermatitis, and to exploit the potential of MOR106 to the maximum. Data from preclinical models and expression analyses suggest that the target of MOR106 might be involved in other diseases, which justifies expanding the development program. We are also very pleased that we can further strengthen our engagement in atopic dermatitis by starting additional trials together with Galapagos, which will be fully reimbursed by Novartis.”
First of its kind
MOR106 may lead to a world first, anti-IL-17C treatment for AD and possibly other diseases. The in-licensing of MOR106 follows an immuno-dermatology trend, adding to Novartis marketed product portfolio Cosentyx and Xolair.
Securing a strong and committed partner for MOR106 helps the program, and also enables us to allocate more resources elsewhere. - Onno van de Stolpe, Galapagos
"We are committed to reimagining the care of patients with severe diseases such as psoriasis, chronic spontaneous urticaria and atopic dermatitis. There is a key role for biologics to treat these severe diseases, which are more than just skin conditions, as they have complex underlying root causes," said Eric Hughes, Global Development Unit Head, Immunology, Hepatology and Dermatology at Novartis.
"We are pleased to work with Galapagos and MorphoSys who have a proven track record of developing drug candidates for severe inflammatory diseases."
Eager patients will have to wait a while until the Phase II and potential Phase III clinical trials are concluded, but hopes are high that the MOR106 antibody will lead to an effective treatment for itchy skin around the world.