Swiss pharma Roivant has given French biotech Poxel €28M upfront to get involved with the development and commercialization of imeglimin, a new treatment for metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes.

Poxel uses its expertise in metabolism to develop drugs for the treatment of disorders like type 2 diabetes. Its candidate imeglimin has caught the eye of the big healthcare company, Roivant, which will pay up to $600M (€486M) to take control of the drug’s development and commercialization. 

The funds will help to support a Phase III clinical trial that is already underway in Japan and expected to begin in Europe and the US in 2019. The biotech, which IPO’ed for 27M back in 2015, has enjoyed a 23% spike in its stock price following the news this morning.

Type 2 diabetes affects 425 million people around the world, a number on the rise due to the increasing levels of obesity. The disease is characterized by the body no longer using insulin effectively, which means extra steps must be taken to keep blood glucose levels under control. With the condition causing complications in the cardiovascular and nervous systems, as well as blindness, it’s easy to see how it costs healthcare systems around the world in excess of €620Bn a year.

The unique mechanism of action of Poxel’s imeglimin targets the cell’s powerhouse, the mitochondria. In particular, it focuses on three key target tissues and organs: the liver, muscles, and pancreas, which are key to the treatment of diabetes. Imeglimin modulates mitochondrial function to protect beta-cells, the body’s insulin-secreting cells. 

“The current standard of care acts by either improving insulin secretion or improving the efficiency of insulin,” Thomas Kuhn, CEO of Poxel, told us. “By acting on the mitochondria, imeglimin targets both insulin secretion and efficiency.”

Poxel’s imeglimin restores the normal function of the mitochondria’s electron transport chain to reduce the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the release of pro-apoptotic factors by diabetic cells.

According to Kuhn, Poxel is currently the only company with a similar drug targeting the mitochondria in late-stage clinical trials. This could give the French company a headstart in the type 2 diabetes market, with its launch expected as soon as 2021 in Japan, and followed shortly after by Europe. 

With the danger that type 2 diabetes poses to patients and the heavy burden it places on healthcare systems, it’s no wonder that many biotechs are searching for ways to fight the disease. Competition for Poxel and Roivant in the field is fierce, with Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 agonist outperforming Eli Lilly’s equivalent, which is already on the market. In addition, Novartis and MorphoSys’ antibody approach to treating the disease, which is undergoing Phase II trials, and Sanofi’s rapid-action insulin, which has been approved by the FDA for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.

Roivant’s support will supercharge Poxel’s efforts to secure a place in the type 2 diabetes field, which is set to be worth €52Bn by 2026 — something that no doubt contributed to the global healthcare company’s interest.

Poxel’s other candidate, PXL770, may also benefit from the influx of money into the company. The drug is an adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activator, which Poxel believes has the potential to treat a wide range of indications, including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This alternative approach has yielded promising preliminary Phase IIa results for Betagenon and Baltic Bio in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.


Co-authored by Clara Rodriguez Fernandez

Images via crystal light / Shutterstock; Poxel

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