Pearl Therapeutics, Fresh Off Big VC Round, Tops $3B Lung Drug in Head-to-Head Trial

12/1/10Follow @xconomy

Pearl Therapeutics bagged a whopping $69 million venture round last month, and now it’s pretty clear why.

The Redwood City, CA-based biotech company is reporting clinical trial results today that show its inhalable drug for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worked better than standard Tiotropium (Spiriva), a $3 billion annual seller for Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim. The Pearl Therapeutics product, which uses a combination of two treatments in a standard inhaler, was about 50 percent more effective than other therapies it was compared against in a study of 118 patients with moderate to very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, says Pearl CEO Howard Rosen. The difference was highly statistically significant, but Pearl is saving most of the important detailed results for a scientific meeting and peer-reviewed publication in 2011.

“Being able to increase lung function 10-15 percent can be difference between sitting around all day versus going to work and doing normal activities,” Rosen says. “This is as good as, or better than, what we had hoped for.”

Pearl is racing to be one of the new leaders in field of developing drugs against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an umbrella term for emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which is usually brought on by smoking. The disease is now the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S., killing 100,000 people a year, according to the National Emphysema Foundation. Emphysema alone is estimated to cost the U.S. health system an estimated $5 billion to $9 billion a year. Treatments on the market today, like Spiriva, are only designed to treat symptoms and aren’t really able to alter the course of the disease.

Pearl made a big splash last month when it scored the large venture round from Vatera Healthcare Partners, Clarus Ventures, New Leaf Ventures, and 5AM Ventures. Those groups rallied behind its concept of creating what’s known as a LAMA/LABA combination, which essentially creates a simple inhalable formulation of two drugs that have two different ways of working to clear up constricted airways. Specifically, the company’s lead candidate combines glycopyrrolate with formoterol in a product that’s dubbed PT-003.

Anytime a $3 billion drug like Spiriva comes along in such a broad potential market for a life-threatening condition like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you know every Big Pharma company has its eye on competing for a piece of the market. It’s true in this case, where GlaxoSmithKline has … Next Page »

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