BioWorld International Correspondent

Gastrotech Pharma A/S acquired a clinical development collaboration with Eli Lilly and Co. in irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia through its purchase of intellectual property assets from an undisclosed third party.

Copenhagen, Denmark-based Gastrotech CEO Claes Post told BioWorld International that the company gained a strong position in the use of peptide analogues of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) in the treatment of diseases of the digestive tract.

"We acquired this position by buying the patent portfolio from another company," he said. "Right now we're not in a position to reveal who that company is."

Peptide mimics of GLP-1 hormone have received considerable attention from big pharma as a means of improving glucose control in the treatment of diabetes through the stimulation of insulin production. For example, Lilly, of Indianapolis, and partner Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, completed pivotal Phase III studies with their GLP-1 analogue, exenatide, in December and expect to file a new drug application shortly. Also, Zealand Pharmaceuticals A/S, of Copenhagen, in 2003 entered a pact worth up to $100 million with Aventis SA, of Strasbourg, France, to develop ZP10. And Basel, Switzerland-based F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. agreed last fall to pay up to €202 million to purchase rights to BIM 51077 from Ipsen Group, of Paris.

Gastrotech's IBS and functional dyspepsia program is based on academic research indicating a role for GLP-1 in dampening excessive motor activity in the gastrointestinal tract.

"It's a totally new concept to be able to treat these conditions with these kinds of compounds," Post said. The IBS program has entered a Phase II trial that eventually is expected to involve more than 100 patients in five centers in Denmark and Sweden. Post said recruitment should be completed late this year or early 2005, and results should become available about 12 months from now. The actual peptide under investigation belongs to Lilly, but Gastrotech holds rights to its use in IBS. Lilly has an option to license the program from Gastrotech in return for undisclosed milestones and royalties.

Gastrotech's second clinical program, which also is in a Phase II trial, centers on therapeutics based on the peptide hormone ghrelin for treatment of catabolic disorders. Lilly also has a major research effort in that area.

"That's an obvious [partnering] opportunity as well, since we are already in a collaboration with them," Post said.