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Pfizer sets up its own biotech to develop rejected drugs

Published on 26/09/17 at 08:21am

Pfizer has moved to set up an entirely independent company to develop four of its own clinical-stage drug candidates. The hope is that the company, named SpringWorks Therapeutics, will be able to carry over some of the energy and versatility that has become synonymous with successful biotech ventures to successfully bring through the potential therapeutics.

The four drug candidates were dropped, according to Pfizer, not due to their lack of potential but due to budget constraints. SpringWorks has completed a Series A financing to the tune of $103 million, so there’ll be a significant pot of money to investigate whether the drugs can be taken further.

Investors in the newly formed include Pfizer itself, as well as Bain Capital, OrbiMed Advisors and LifeArc. Pfizer will be eligible for royalties and milestone payments depending on the success of the candidates.

“SpringWorks Therapeutics will pursue the development of medicines across therapeutic areas, focused on diseases where there is an urgent need and the potential for the greatest impact for patients,” said Lara S. Sullivan, Founder and President of SpringWorks Therapeutics and a former Vice President at Pfizer. “We initially have rights to four very promising experimental therapies and, over time, plan to expand our pipeline by partnering with other life science companies and academic institutions who share in our mission.”

The four candidates are as follows:

Nirogacesta – a potential treatment for desmoid tumours, a rare form of non-metastatic of connective tissue cells. Approximately 900 to 1,200 people every year in the US.

PD-0325901, a MEK 1/2 inhibitor, that will be investigated to treat neurofibromatosis – a condition that causes tumours to grow on nerves throughout the body.

Senicapoc is a potential treatment for hereditary xerocytosis, which is a chronic condition wherein red blood cells become dehydrated due to the loss of potassium and cell water.

The last candidate is PF-0445784, being investigated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The company will begin, in true biotech-style, with a skeleton staff of just 10 members; however, the experience behind them is anything but skeletal. The staff includes a mix of Pfizer experience, such as Freda Lewis-Hall, a board member of the company and Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer, and industry experience, like L. Mary Smith, formerly Chief Strategy Officer at Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

It was revealed that the start-up will also approach other companies, beyond this pipeline of four candidates, to expand its portfolio.

Ben Hargreaves

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