PARIS - The French biotechnology company Genfit SA signed a research collaboration agreement with the pharmaceutical division of Kowa Co., a Japanese conglomerate whose activities span a number of industries.

The collaboration is aimed at the development of a new anti-atherosclerotic drug based on research carried out by Lille-based Genfit into a natural mechanism that eliminates cholesterol from arterial walls. It calls for the companies to identify innovative therapeutic strategies for enhancing the anti-atherosclerotic mechanism as an alternative to current therapies.

The five-year deal provides for Kowa, whose pharmaceutical division specializes in cardiovascular diseases, to make an up-front payment to Genfit for the purchase of a license and to provide it with annual research funding, as well as potential milestone payments and royalties.

This is the seventh drug development agreement Genfit has signed, but the first with a company based outside France. CEO Jean-Fran├žois Mouney said it puts the company "in a strong position to seize other alliance opportunities in Japan, where barriers to entry are considered quite high."

Cardiovascular disease is one of several therapeutic fields on which Genfit is focusing its drug discovery activities, the other main ones being inflammation and metabolic diseases. - James Etheridge