Taking The Pain Away For Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Rheumatoid Arthritis is synonymous with one word, PAIN, and anyone who has been down this road can tell there's no way to describe the uncanny havoc it causes, both physically and mentally. It destroys the movements in your joints, and the ability to participate in the things you love to do. According to RA.com, 1.3 million Americans are affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis.

That being said there happens to be a David vs. Goliath sentiment within the pharmaceutical industry. A small-cap company based in Cambridge, Mass. called Zalicus, is facing off with the pharmaceutical behemoth from Abbott Park, Illinois, Abbott Laboratories.

Zalicus, NASDAQ: ZLCS, is a Cambridge, Mass. based biopharmaceutical company taking the fight of Rheumatoid Arthritis by the reigns and developing drugs that will assist in containing and ultimately relieving the pain these patients experience. During Q4 2011, ZLCS demonstrated a key partnership with Hydra Biosciences, in an effort to advance development of its preclinical Ion Channel Modulator. As noted in ZLCS's Q4 press release, "Hydra's leadership in Ion channel discovery, preclinical drug development, and strong position in this area was recently solidified with the progression into the clinic of its novel TRPA1 modulator".

Abbott Laboratories, NYSE: ABT is an Abbott Park, Illinois biopharmaceutical company taking a very pro-active role in the development and distribution of various Rheumatoid Arthritis medications. During Q4 2011, ABT demonstrated major strides in its drug HUMIRA® especially in patients with severe cases of Rheumatoid Arthritis. One of the major components driving the advancements of HUMIRA®, is the amount of time it has spent in clinical development. "The ability to inhibit the progression of the disease and improve physical function is the current benchmark for RA treatment," said John Leonard, M.D., senior vice president, Pharmaceuticals Research and Development, Abbott.

Drugs in Development - Zalicus: Currently, ZLCS is working on Synavive®. SYNERGY rheumatoid arthritis Phase 2b trials are currently under way and they look to report the data in the latter part of Q3 in 2012. If the top-line data exceeds developmental expectations various strategic channels could open up, and FDA approval could mean a very attractive bottom line for FY 2012.

Synavive® can mean some very significant steps forward for Zalicus. It makes Zalicus a great acquisition target by someone like Abbott Laboratories, who is a major pharmaceutical player in the Rheumatoid Arthritis arena.

Drugs in Development - Abbott Laboratories: Currently, ABT is working with Galapagos to develop yet another Rheumatoid Arthritis solution. This solution, entitled GLPG0634, is an orally administered JAK (Janus Kinases) inhibitor that is used primarily for patients that have severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. The expectations for this solution are interesting, because unlike the decade long trials of HUMIRA®, complete phase II approval could be seen as early as 2014.

Company Guidance - ZLCS: From Zalicus.com: "In 2011, we made significant progress in advancing our product candidates in clinical development, including Synavive, Z160 and Z944," commented Mark H.N. Corrigan, MD, President and CEO of Zalicus. "During 2012, we will see the results of those studies and make important decisions on next steps. This is evident with the successful reformulation of Z160, in which we have achieved the consistent exposure levels necessary to evaluate its efficacy in a Phase 2 clinical study for neuropathic pain later this year."

Company Guidance - ABT: From Abbott.com: "The addition of this novel, oral compound offers patients the potential for advanced treatment options and an improved patient experience to address RA and other autoimmune diseases," said John Leonard, M.D., senior vice president, global research and development, Abbott. "Abbott's expertise in immunology, combined with a robust portfolio of investigational treatments represents promising innovation across several areas of medical need."

Disclosure: I am long ZLCS.