Ipsen is actively scouting candidates to boost its oncology, rare disease and neuroscience portfolio, said chief business officer Ivana Magovčević-Liebisch. The company has more than €1bn dedicated to pipeline building via external innovation, and welcomes approaches from companies with both early and late-stage candidates in its core areas of development, Magovčević-Liebisch added on the sidelines of the LSX World Congress in Boston this week.

In February this year, the company announced it had more than €1bn dedicated to building its portfolio via external deals. So far this year, the company has only done one deal with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for an unnamed preclinical oncology drug, which Ipsen will take through Phase I and clinical development, according to a 29 May press release.

While Magovčević-Liebisch declined to disclose what was in store for the rest of the year or how many deals the company is targeting, she did say that the company is in several ongoing discussions.

Specific indications and deal structures of interest

Ipsen is a top 20 oncology company with 62% of its sales coming from this therapeutic area, said Magovčević-Liebisch. Ipsen has a strong presence in solid tumors, she added, noting indications of candidate interest include (but are not limited to) gastrointestinal cancers such as gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), bladder cancer, prostate cancer and neuroendocrine tumors.

The company is particularly interested in early-stage assets that have single-agent activity and other potential stratification via a biomarker (biological marker of some biological state or condition) or patient population, she said. Late-stage assets for solid tumors would have to be more compelling from a competitive standpoint and Ipsen would remain more opportunistic in this arena, she noted.

Preclinical candidates are also of interest, though with more transformative potential to have multiple shots at success, she said, noting an asset with potential in multiple indications or directed at multiple targets would be favourable. Ipsen is not interested in doing large exploratory studies, she added.

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On the rare disease side, the company already has a presence in acromegaly, a human growth hormonal disorder, but Ipsen understands that to build a franchise in rare diseases, it needs an ‘anchor’ asset, so Ipsen is actively seeking a rare disease candidate in all therapeutic areas that has reached proof of concept or beyond, Magovčević-Liebisch noted. Ipsen markets Somatuline (lanreotide) for acromegaly, which was FDA-approved in 2007.

For its neuroscience portfolio, Ipsen is specifically interested in later-stage assets in spasticity and movement disorders, Magovčević-Liebisch said. Its flagship product is Dysport (botulinum toxin) and Ipsen is interested in both technologies and solutions to expand Dysport to other therapeutic areas. It currently has both short-acting and long-acting versions of the product in development, she added. The company website shows Dysport is in Phase II trials in hallux abducto valgus and vulvodynia, as well as Phase III trials in upper limb spasticity in children and neurogenic detrusor overactivity.

Magovčević-Liebisch said the company doesn’t have a deep pipeline like big pharma, therefore acquired or partnered assets are likely to be of greater priority and focus in terms of pushing developments through. The company has the flexibility to engage in creative deal structures, and would consider standard in-licensing agreements, option deals, asset acquisitions or company acquisitions, she noted.

An example of a creative deal structure is its agreement with Exelixis for cancer therapy Cabometyx (cabozantinib), initially approved in patients with progressive, unresectable, locally advanced or metastatic medullary thyroid cancer. On February 2016, Ipsen announced a commercial agreement for this drug outside the US, Canada and Japan, as well as a development agreement for future potential cancer indications. The original agreement included a $200m upfront payment, additional regulatory milestones (benchmarks) for other indications and up to $545m in potential commercial milestones. The agreement was later amended in December 2016 to include Canada.

Another example is Ipsen’s acquisition of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals’ Onivyde (irinotecan liposome injection) and additional oncology assets in April 2017, where financial terms of the deal included an upfront cash payment of $575m to Merrimack and up to $450m upon the approval of potential additional indications for Onivyde in the US, Magovčević-Liebisch added.

Ipsen is focused on global transactions but is willing to engage in regional deals including co-promotion or co-commercialisation deals, she added. The company doesn’t have a target of deals it aims to hit, but will rather be opportunistic on value generation from its allocated funds, she said.

The Paris, France-headquartered company generated $1.9bn in 2017 revenues through marketed drugs in more than 115 countries, according to its website. Ipsen has a €10.8bn market cap.

by Surani Fernando in Boston

Surani Fernando is editor of the New York office for Pharmaceutical Technology parent company GlobalData’s investigative journalism team. A version of this article originally appeared on the Insights module of GlobalData’s Pharmaceutical Intelligence Center. To access more articles like this, visit GlobalData.