Arena Forms Drug Discovery Incubator: Beacon Discovery
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
Arena is a biotech company with three drugs in its pipeline. Etrasimod (APD334) is in Phase II trials for ulcerative colitis, ralinepag (APD811) is in a Phase II trial for PAH, and APD371, a CB2 agonist, is wrapping up a Phase I trial for pain. In July, Arena and Woodcliff Lake, NJ-based Eisai. (ESALF.PK) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved Belviq XR CIV extended-release 20 mg tablets for weight loss. Arena received a $10 million milestone payment as part of its deal with Eisai.
Beacon’s goal will be to identify and advance compounds that target G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GCPRs). Any compounds Beacon develops, Arena will have specific rights options. Arena will work with Beacon to support Arena’s pipeline programs, as well as its collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH. That collaboration was announced in January. The two companies have an exclusive agreement to perform joint research to identify drugs that target an undisclosed GPCR that belongs to a family of orphan central nervous system (CNS) receptors. Arena is eligible for up to $262 million in milestones payments, as well as possible tiered royalties.
“This agreement reflects our new corporate focus to enter into collaboration opportunities at various stages of development,” Arena’s then interim chief executive officer, Harry Hixson Jr., said in a January statement. “Collaborations are an essential part of our drug discovery and development efforts, so we are pleased to be part of this shared goal to identify novel drugs targeting an orphan CNS receptor with Boehringer Ingelheim, who possesses demonstrated capabilities in research, development, manufacturing, and marketing of pharmaceutical products.“
Arena also has a collaboration deal with Axovant Sciences (AXON) for its Phase II candidate for dementia. Roivant Sciences acquired the global rights to RVT-101 to treat Alzheimer’s disease from Arena. In October 2015, Axovant acquired global rights to the drug from Roivant, which is Axovant’s parent company.
Arena’s co-founder, Dominic Behan, will act as Beacon’s chief executive officer, transitioning away from serving as Arena’s chief scientific officer and board member. He will chair Arena’s Scientific Advisory Board and act as a consultant.
“I am grateful for the work that Dominic has delivered in his time at Arena,” said Tina Nova, Arena’s chairman of the board, in a statement. “As one of the co-founders of Arena, Dominic has significantly contributed to Arena’s success and we are pleased that he will continue to participate as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board. Dominic’s knowledge of the clinical programs at Arena will be important as we continue to evolve our business focus.”
The current chief executive officer of Arena, Amit Munshi, said in a statement, “The formation of Beacon underscores both our commitment to transitioning Arena from a historically research-oriented organization to a high-performing clinical development organization and our commitment to maximizing the value of our assets. We believe that Beacon has the potential to unlock the value of Arena’s historical research platform for the long term benefit of patients and shareholders.”