Alder Expands Partnership with Schering-Plough, Adds “Significant” Upfront Cash

6/8/09Follow @xconomy

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recently FDA-approved arthritis drug, golimumab (Simponi). Both of those products are marketed in the U.S. by Johnson & Johnson.

Schering-Plough has teamed up with Alder in hopes it will be able to develop next-generation antibody drugs, while retaining worldwide rights to itself, Schatzman says. These big-selling products could soon be merged into an even bigger portfolio of biotech products, as Schering has a pending agreement to be acquired by drug giant Merck for more than $40 billion. Merck, too, has shown growing interest in antibody drug development for years, through its 2005 acquisition of Lebanon, NH-based GlycoFi for $400 million. That deal gave it a different method for making antibodies in yeast, and is a cornerstone of Merck’s more than $1.5 billion investment in making biologic drugs derived from living cells, rather than conventional drugs made from synthesizing chemicals.

Alder, which has 44 employees, has quietly been emerging this year as one of the more promising biotech companies in the Northwest. It has collaborations with two Big Pharma companies that have insisted they remain anonymous to keep competitors in the dark, Schatzman says. It also has partnerships with Bothell, WA-based Seattle Genetics and Denmark-based Genmab.

Bigger news could be on the way soon from Alder, from its ALD518 drug candidate. The company owns 100 percent commercial rights to this drug, which is currently in a pair of randomized mid-stage clinical trials, with 120 patients each, to gauge its potential as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and a severe form of cancer-related fatigue known as cachexia. Alder expects to take its first look at the Phase II data from the rheumatoid arthritis trial later this month, and it will get to see the cancer drug results in July. It hopes to present the arthritis results at the American College of Rheumatology meeting in the fall, Schatzman says.

Alder is already in talks with potential partners to help finish development of the drug for rheumatoid arthritis, and there has been “a lot of interest,” Schatzman says. The clinical trial data will be the key, as those companies want to see the program “de-risked” before they pay serious money to take an ownership piece of the drug, he says.

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