By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

FibroGen Inc. and Sankyo Co. Ltd. entered a three-year deal to discover and develop treatments for fibrotic disorders to include diabetic nephropathy, retinopathy and forms of renal fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, organ transplant rejection, liver fibrosis and atherosclerosis.

Jack Anthony, vice president for global business development for South San Francisco-based FibroGen, wouldn¿t discuss financial terms of the agreement but did say, ¿This is real important to us, being a small company in California, to align ourselves with a world-class pharmaceutical company that shares the same vision for this target that we do and is willing to bring funding and resources to accelerate the program in place.¿

The deal calls for FibroGen, a private company with 160 employees, to receive an up-front payment, research funding and milestone payments. Any compounds developed for renal fibrosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetic retinopathy and hepatic fibrosis will be co-promoted in North America. FibroGen will receive royalties on Sankyo¿s sales outside the North American market for those indications, and FibroGen retains global rights to all other indications.

Sankyo, of Tokyo, employs 7,000 people and has been in the pharmaceutical business since 1899.

Anthony said Sankyo has a ¿deep and abiding interest¿ in diabetes and diabetic complications. ¿Clearly, the large side effects of diabetes are of extreme interest to them and those would be fibrotic complications of the kidney, eye and other diabetic complications. Sankyo also has an interest in cardiac indications,¿ he said.

The companies will develop assays and Sankyo will conduct the high-throughput screening and optimize promising candidates.

¿It is expected that during the three-year period we will identify the appropriate targets and come up with candidate compounds and at the three-year point we will examine the program and if we are all happy with it, we will continue forward,¿ Anthony said.

The research will focus on inhibitors of the pathways through which transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-B) transcriptionally activates connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) and on inhibitors of pathways by which CTGF signal transduction upregulates matrix production and other elements of fibrotic pathogenesis.

CTGF, FibroGen¿s novel cytokine, is believed to be involved in a number of fibrotic conditions. Low molecular weight inhibitors of CTGF action could permit long-term therapy of debilitating and fatal diseases, FibroGen said.

FibroGen completed a $56.5 million private placement of convertible preferred stock last September. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 29, 2000.)

The company has collaborations with Taisho Pharmaceutical Co., of Tokyo, and ZymoGenetics Inc. of Seattle. Also, FibroGen has more than 20 active agreements with pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers for development and feasibility testing of its recombinant human collagens or gelatins as replacement components for animal-sourced materials.

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