BioWorld International Correspondent

BioTie Therapies Oyj licensed an orally available tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibitor from Biokine Therapeutics Ltd. in a deal it said will have no "material impact" on its financial position.

"We were able to strike deal terms that makes it attractive for us and Biokine," said Jari Saarinen, CEO of Turku, Finland-based BioTie.

BioTie will pay Rehovot, Israel-based Biokine a small up-front fee, plus milestone payments and royalties should the molecule, BKT104, undergo commercialization. The compound is in late preclinical development. BioTie, which has taken on responsibility for further preclinical and clinical development, has exclusive global rights to BKT104.

BioTie has the development and commercialization expertise required to increase the value of the program before licensing it on to a larger partner, Saarinen said. Biokine is a research-oriented firm with little commercial or development experience, whereas BioTie has signed deals with Roche Holding AG, of Basel, Switzerland, and Sanofi-Aventis Group, of Paris, among others.

BKT104, which originally was identified by scientists at the Weizmann Institute, also of Rehovot, has a sulphated disaccharide structure, said BioTie's head of research, Anne Marjamaki.

"It is generated by enzymatic cleavage of heparin," she said. "In clinical studies with heparin, it has been shown that it inhibits inflammation independent of its known anti-coagulant activity."

BioTie has not yet decided which indication it will pursue.

"There are different segments where we could position this," Saarinen said. One possibility, he said, would be to target it at non-responders to existing anti-TNF-alpha treatments, such as Enbrel (etanercept), made by Amgen Inc., of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Humira (adalimumab), marketed by Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill.

The deal extends the company's position in inflammation. It already has a long-standing program centered on finding small-molecule inhibitors of Vascular Adhesion protein-1 (VAP-1), which Roche optioned late last year.

"They are definitely interested in the target and the program but they would like us to progress it a little further before they license it in," Saarinen said.

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