This Small German Biotech is Dealing with Big Pharma in NASH and Autoimmune Disease

This week we visit Ludwigshafen, a city in southwestern Germany across the river from Mannheim, where some of the biggest corporations have offices. From this strategic location, Phenex Pharmaceuticals develops drugs against nuclear receptors that have attracted very big names. 

phenex pharmaceuticals nuclear receptors

Mission: Phenex is specialized in small molecules that target nuclear receptors. Its drugs have been licensed by Janssen Biotech and Gilead to target, respectively, the RORγt receptor in autoimmune disease and the FXR receptor in NASH, two very profitable areas.

Phenex is receiving substantial milestone payments from its partners – just this week, it received €5.3M from Janssen for entering Phase I. In total, it could earn up to €530M from both deals with Janssen and Gilead. On top of that, the company also has its own undisclosed programs against inflammatory diseases and cancer.

Comment: The two targets of Phenex’ licensed drugs are well known for their therapeutic potential, but also for being difficult to target. Other companies after these targets include Immunic Therapeutics against RORγt and Akarna against FXR. Phenex’ technology has convinced two big names in the industry and, despite its small size and relatively small fundraising, has managed to become profitable back in 2012. The company is certainly a great example for many other German biotechs to follow.

Image via LaMiaFotografia / Shutterstock

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