Young startup snags Gilead addiction drug

Dive Brief:

  • Addiction-focused startup Amygdala Neurosciences has picked up the rights to a Phase 2-ready addiction candidate from Gilead Sciences. Financial details have not been disclosed.
  • The drug could reduce craving and drug-seeking, and clinical trials for cocaine and alcohol-use disorders are planned for 2017.
  • In the U.S., 22 million people need treatment for addiction, but only around 11% receive it, according to Amygdala. One of the few treatments already on the market for addiction is Alkermes' Vivitrol (naltrexone), which brought in $209 million in 2016. 

Dive Insight:

Addiction is a huge issue in the U.S. In 2015, 67,000 deaths were linked with drug overdose, and 88,000 were related to alcohol use. This has a financial knock-on effect, with $700 billion in indirect costs and $33 billion in treatment costs, according to numbers cited by the company.

Amygdala Neurosciences, which was founded in 2015, is focusing on the development and commercialization of drug candidates for addiction disorders, and the acquisition of Gilead's drug GS-6637 appears to be the first drug in its clinical pipeline.

GS-6637 is a highly selective ALDH2 inhibitor, and preclinical studies suggest that it could prevent both craving and substance-seeking behavior.

"Completion of this transaction launches Amygdala Neurosciences with a Phase-2 ready asset that we believe has the potential to become a treatment for addiction," said Peter Strumph, Amygdala's co-founder and CEO. "In 2017, we look forward to initiating clinical trials for the treatment of both cocaine and alcohol use disorders."

A number of companies are developing drugs that could have potential in treating addiction. Braeburn Pharmaceuticals is developing a subcutaneous formulation of buprenorphine, known as CAM2038, in Phase 3 for weekly and monthly use in opioid addiction.

Embera Neurotherapeutics' EMB-001 is in Phase 1 for cocaine and tobacco use disorder, with preclinical studies under way in other addictions, including gambling. This is a combination of two already-approved drugs, metyrapone and oxazepam.

UK-based company C4X is carrying out preclinical studies of an oral orexin-1 antagonist that is initially targeted at smoking cessation, with other potential indications in alcohol, cocaine and opiate addictions. Heptares Therapeutics is also working on the orexin-1 approach, focusing on cocaine addiction and relapse.

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Filed Under: Mergers and Acquisitions / Deals
Top image credit: Diageo