Indivior PLC (LON:INDV), the maker of heroin substitute Suboxone, is turning to a small Swiss drug developer for help sourcing the next generation of addiction treatments in a deal potentially worth up to US$330mln.
It is teaming up with Addex Therapeutics (market capitalisation £26.5mln), which is developing drugs that target the GABAB receptor pathway in the brain.
The new generation of drugs, called GABAB positive allosteric modulators, have shown they have the potential to treat alcohol and cocaine abuse. It should be cautioned the research is early stage and tests have only ever been carried out in animals.
But Addex’s research is promising enough to have received a US$5.3mln grant from a national drug abuse programme.
Indivior is paying US$5mln upfront and will fund research for the next two years with the aim of developing a commercially viable addiction product.
The collaboration includes a global licence to lead candidate ADX71441, which is expected to enter phase I clinical studies next year. It also includes exclusivity over backup compounds.
"As part of our leadership position in addiction, among the key priorities we are pursuing is continuing to review and invest in promising new treatments for this chronic and relapsing disease," said Shaun Thaxter, chief executive of Indivior.
In September, the company saw around £1bn wiped from its market valuation after a court ruling that effectively opened the floodgates to cheap, copycat competition to its lead product, Suboxone Film.
The drug, which is estimated to have generated around £850mln in sales last year, accounts for around 90% of Indivior’s annual turnover.
Since then, the company has fought a legal rear-guard action to protect its top seller and it is ushering in new lines, including a slow release version of Suboxone.