Omeros Banks on First FDA Filing Next Year, Plans to “Unlock” Inaccessible Drug Targets

11/19/09Follow @xconomy

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of targets known as G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). They are complex spaghetti-like protein receptors that weave in and out of the surface of cells, and which are the targets of an estimated 30 to 40 percent of all marketed pharmaceuticals, including best-sellers for depression, allergies, and high blood pressure. Many such GPCRs are “undruggable” because scientists haven’t been able to identify a naturally occurring or synthetic molecule, called a ligand, that binds with the receptor.

Omeros says it believes it can make these GPCR targets “druggable” with the help of technology from Toronto-based PatoBios. But the catch was that under their old agreement, Omeros would have to pay PatoBios $10.8 million when it achieved this goal against the first GPCR target, Demopulos said. Even though Omeros just raised a lot of money in its IPO, it apparently didn’t want to quickly fork over a big chunk of this to its collaborator, at least not right away.

To that end, the deal has been revised so that Omeros only has to pay $500,000 upfront when it unmasks the first GPCR target, Demopulos says. The company can defer the rest until it forms a collaboration with a bigger drugmaker with the money and manpower to pursue the other GPCR targets, he says.

“We believe this will be a significant advance, and the industry will ascribe a lot of value to the unlocked GPCRs,” Demopulos said. The company expects to nail the first of these targets in the first half of 2010, he said.

Demopulos didn’t make any promises that any such deal is right around the corner. When asked by analyst David Steinberg of Deutsche Bank—the lead underwriter of the Omeros IPO—about any forecasts for when Omeros might strike a drug development collaboration, Demopulos said he is hoping to form “one or more deals over the next couple years, tied to one or more of our programs.”

Financially, there wasn’t much to say. It was down to its last $4.5 million of cash in the bank on September 30, about a week before the IPO infusion, according to its quarterly report. The company isn’t yet providing any forecast on its spending rate for the fourth quarter or for 2010. Omeros is looking to hire a new chief financial officer, Demopulos says.

While that search continues, the company is defending itself in a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former CFO Richard Klein, who says he was fired after he made a whistleblower complaint. Demopulos didn’t provide any update on the suit.

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