AbbVie will assume development of Morphic Therapeutic‘s alpha v beta 6 (αvβ6) integrin inhibitors as potential treatments for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and other fibrotic diseases, exercising a licensing option under an earlier research partnership between the companies.
Integrins control a wide variety of cellular processes, including cell survival, cell migration, cell cycle progression, and immune system activation. Aberrant integrin signaling contributes to several diseases, including fibrotic diseases.
The protein αvβ6 integrin, in particular, has many functions. It is best known for activating another protein, called transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-β1), which is a well-established driver of fibrosis (scarring) in the lungs and elsewhere in the body. As such, it is believed that blocking αvβ6 integrin could lower the activity of TGF-beta1 to reduce fibrosis.
Multiple investigational αvβ6 integrin inhibitors — including the compounds MORF-720 and MORF-627 — have been developed by Morphic through the company’s MInT (Morphic Integrin Technology) platform. This platform is said to combine knowledge of structural biology with that of protein dynamics to discover compounds that might block integrins.
According to a press release from Morphic, an “extensive preclinical data package” supports its integrin inhibitors as potential oral IPF treatments.
“The preclinical data strongly support Morphic’s selective small molecule inhibitors of αvβ6 for development in fibrotic disease,” Praveen Tipirneni, MD, president and CEO of Morphic Therapeutic, said in the release.
AbbVie and Morphic entered into a research and development collaboration in 2018 aimed at advancing Morphic’s investigational integrin therapies for fibrosis-related conditions. This agreement gave AbbVie the exclusive right to license therapies being developed by Morphic. AbbVie has now exercised these rights for the αvβ6 integrin inhibitors.
In accordance with the earlier agreement, Morphic will receive a license fee of $20 million from AbbVie, in addition to the $100 million it received under the 2018 agreement. The company also has the potential to receive additional payments from AbbVie if candidate therapies are approved by regulatory agencies and commercialized.
“AbbVie has been an excellent partner through the preclinical development of this program and we believe that their decision to assume leadership for the next stages of development is a strong vote of confidence in our collaboration, as well as Morphic’s MInT platform to generate orally available integrin inhibitors,” Tipirneni said.
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