Allergan Acquires Dermatology Assets with $275M Vicept Buy
BioWorld Today Contributing Writer
Allergan Inc. will acquire dermatology company Vicept Therapeutics Inc. in a deal worth up to $275 million. Malvern, Pa..-based Vicept's lead product, V-101, is in development for rosacea and has showed positive results in Phase II trials. The acquisition will beef up Allergan's range of dermatology products, which includes Tazorac (tazarotene) and Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA).
"From our standpoint, we were kind of focused on having resources ourselves to take the product all the way," Vicept CEO Neal Walker told BioWorld Today. However, when the opportunity for acquisition by Allergan arose, Vicept "decided it was the right time in the development cycle to have one of the leading dermatology companies in the world take the next steps."
Allergan, of Irvine, Calif., will acquire all outstanding shares and assets, with a payment of $75 million up front and up to $200 million in development and regulatory milestones, with additional payments contingent on sales.
Rosacea is a skin disorder that affects 15 million Americans and more than 45 million worldwide. The most common subtype, erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR) Type I, causes transient facial flushing and persistent redness. It can also cause burning and sensitivity to skin products. Its causes are unknown, and there is no approved therapy.
Walker estimated that the market for a rosacea therapy is worth $400 million to $500 million annually.
Vicept's clinical trial results, reported in April, showed a statistically significant improvement in facial redness over a 12-hour period in patients given a V-101 skin cream compared to placebo. Eighty-five people participated in the study.
Study V-10-ROSE-206 was the second of two Phase II studies, both of which met their primary endpoints. The safety profile for V-101 resembled placebo.
Results from Study V-101-ROSE-202, reported in January, showed that V-101 had a statistically significant affect on facial redness over an eight-hour period, also with a safety profile similar to placebo.
Allergan said that the Vicept acquisition will enhance its dermatology pipeline and complements its corporate strategy.
Vicept was founded in 2009 for the purpose of developing products for skin disorders. In 2010, a $16 million Series A led by Vivo Ventures, Sofinnova Ventures and Fidelity Biosciences helped boost it into Phase II trials. (See BioWorld Today, July 7, 2010.)
V-101 is an alpha-adrenergic receptor-targeted drug. It binds the adrenergic receptor on blood vessels and "clamps down" on them. Since it's dilated blood vessels that cause the redness, the clamping process decreases the red appearance of the skin.
Vicept is developing a second product, V-102, for actinic purpura, bruising associated with accumulated sun damage, and a third, V-103, for peri-procedural bruising.
Vicept isn't the only company chasing the large unserved rosacea market. Allergan's new competition in that area will include the likes of Cutanea Life Sciences and Sol-Gel Technologies.
"Due to the size of the market opportunity, there's a number of different companies looking at developing products to treat different aspects of rosacea," Walker said.
Cutanea filed for an initial public offering in November 2010.
Proceeds of approximately $13 million will be used to support the firm's first Phase III study of omiganan in rosacea and additional R&D in support of an omiganan new drug application.
In November 2009, the FDA accepted an investigational new drug application from Sol-Gel Technologies for a Phase II study of DER45-EV Gel for the topical treatment of rosacea.
The dermatology space has become attractive for investors like Sofinnova Ventures. Sofinnova partner Anand Mehra said it compares favorably with areas such as oncology, due to several qualities of the field.
First, it shows "robust acquisition activity." Companies like GlaxoSmithKline plc, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and Nycomed A/S, for example, have all made dermatology acquisitions in recent years. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 31, 2007, April 22, 2009, and July, 18, 2011.)
"There's clearly a subset of small, medium and large players that are very acquisitive and interested in the space," Mehra noted.
Second, the commercial opportunities are large, as in the case of the market for rosacea, where there is a medically important indication and no approved therapy.
Third, indications like dermatology and ophthalmology are attractive to investors because the development path is "more rapid and capital efficient."
"Compare dermatology to oncology," Mehra said. "In oncology, there's a real scarcity of patients in any given trial. The trials take a long time to enroll, and once they do, you wait one or two years for the endpoint that people care about – overall survival."
That's very different from dermatology, where trials enroll much more quickly, and endpoints are shorter term and more easily measurable. In the case of rosacea, researchers were able to measure endpoints the same day as dosing.
"Roll that together," Mehra added, "and an outcome like Vicept can be possible."
Published: July 20, 2011
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