PharmaEssentia Corp (藥華醫藥), which makes new protein drugs for rare diseases, yesterday inked a deal with Academia Sinica for licensing an anemia drug from the research institute, aiming to finish pre-clinical trials of the drug within two years.
The company will pay milestone payment and royalties for the drug to Academia Sinica, said Academia Sinica distinguished research fellow James Shen (沈哲鯤), who invented the drug, without offering exact numbers.
The drug is likely to be used to treat beta thalassemia, which is common in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, and sickle cell anemia, which is prevalent in the US, Academia Sinica postdoctoral fellow Chou Yu-Chi (周祐吉) said.
“Currently, there are no effective cures for the two diseases,” Chou said.
There are 323.3 million people with the two diseases in the world, accounting for 5.2 percent of the total population, Chou said.
However, not all infected people require treatment with medication, he added.
About 100,000 patients infected with beta thalassemia around the world await treatment by bone marrow transplant or blood transfusion and iron-chelation therapy, but these treatments cost between NT$700,000 and NT$1 million (US$23,300 and US$33,290) a year for each patient, Chou said.
Alternatively, patients with beta thalassemia and sickle cell anemia can take Hydroxyurea, but 50 percent of patients with sickle cell anemia and 33 percent of patients with beta thalassemia do not respond to the drug, he said, adding that the drug has strong side effects, including causing leukemia.
PharmaEssentia president and chief executive Lin Ko-chung (林國鐘) said the company would have three other projects under phase- three clinical trials and another seven projects under phase-two clinical trials by the end of the year.
The company plans to start the phase-three clinical trials in the US for P1101(AOP2014), which can treat polycythemia vera, a blood disorder in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells, by June 30, when the company holds its annual shareholders’ meeting.
The company said it plans to spend NT$600 million this year on research and development, up from NT$529.64 million the previous year, to conduct clinical trials.
Last quarter, the company posted losses of NT$593.75 million, or NT$3.4 per share, up from losses of NT$256.06 million, or NT$2.02 per share, a year earlier, because of higher research spending.
In the first five months of the year, the company booked a cumulative revenue of only NT$5.33 million, compared with NT$63.62 million for the same period last year, the company’s filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange showed.