BioWorld International Correspondent

Borean Pharma A/S is selling trimeric Apo A-I, a preclinical drug for atherosclerosis, to F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.

The transaction, which is subject to review by government anti-trust and competition authorities, is expected to be completed during the current quarter. Financial terms were not disclosed. Johannna Holldack, CEO of Aarhus, Denmark-based Borean, declined to reveal specifics but told BioWorld International: "For Borean this is a substantial deal. We're really happy that Roche took it on because we know they will do a wonderful job."

Apo A-I is a trimerized version of the naturally occurring protein aplipoprotein A-I, the major component of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL protects against atherosclerosis by reducing the buildup of arterial plaque, which can lead to myocardial infarction and stroke. Borean acquired the program through its stock-based purchase of Proteopharma A/S, also of Aarhus, but always said it intended to partner it quickly. (See BioWorld International, Feb. 25, 2004.)

"I think it's mainly a question of resources. When you look to develop a cardiovascular compound, it always takes a huge amount of money, resources and time," Holldack said.

A similar compound, also owned by a large pharma company, already is in the clinic. Before it was acquired by New York-based Pfizer Inc. in February 2004, Esperion Therapeutics Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., had completed a Phase II trial of ETC-216, a dimeric version of the protein bearing the naturally occurring Milano mutation, which is associated with longevity and a low rate of vascular disease among carriers.

The trimeric form, Borean said, would be expected to have "an even more pronounced effect," as it has an extended circulatory half-life. It incorporates the so-called "trimerization domain" of the naturally occurring C-type lectin tetranectin, which spontaneously forms a stable trimeric structure in solution.

Apo A-I therapy has potential in treating patients who already have experienced myocardial infarction, Holldack said, as about 30 percent re-infarct within a short time frame, which often is too soon for statin treatment to have an effect. "It's a long period of time before their efficacy kicks in," she said. Because of their differing mechanisms, the drugs also have potential to act synergistically, she added.

The remainder of Borean's preclinical pipeline is based on its C-lectin platform technology, which enables the company to engineer antibody mimics by altering the binding loops of tetranectin. Its lead compound is a TNF-alpha antagonist, which is slated to enter the clinic in the second half of 2007. The company aims to move a second program, in cancer, into the clinic in 2008. It also intends to out-license its platform technology to companies with proprietary targets.

"We've been in contact with quite a lot of companies. We haven't signed a deal yet," Holldack said. "There's lots of interest out there."