By Michael Fitzhugh
Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) cut one rheumatoid arthritis drug from its pipeline while reiterating its commitment to develop a second drug for the inflammatory disease from the same company, Trubion Pharmaceuticals (TRBN). The decision to pare the dumped drug, TRU-015, comes as Trubion released trial results showing a higher than usual placebo response in a mid-stage trial.
While the company said its TRU-015 did show significant biological and clinical activity without significant safety concerns, Trubion CMO Scott Stromatt said that “market dynamics” dictated a focus on moving the company’s other rehumatoid drug, SBI-087, toward late-stage trials.
Pfizer picked up rights to both drugs as part of its 2009 acquisition of Wyeth. The goal, says Evan Loh, senior vice president of biotherapeutics research and development at Pfizer, is to help develop a winning CD20-targeted therapy—a type of treatment that targets the markers on certain white blood cells involved in the inflammatory process of the disease.
Trubion's TRU-015 likely faced formidable internal competition from CP-690550 (tasocitinib), a second-generation rheumatoid arthritis treatment candidate that Pfizer has already advanced into a late-stage trial.
Losing Pfizer's support TRU-015 probably came as a disappointment for Trubion. At least it seemed to be a disappointment for investors, who docked the company's shares when the news emerged.
But Trubion still has a lot to be happy about. On June 3, the Board of Appeal for the European Patent Office upheld a decision revoking Genentech (DNA) and Biogen Idec's (NASDAQ:BIIB) European Patent 1176981, directed to the use of an anti-CD20 antibody for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Also, its partnership with Facet Biotech (FACT) still stands. Facet has already fronted Trubion $20 million to support a potential treatment for lymphocytic leukemia (TRU-016). It could pay an additional $176.5 million in milestone payments.