AstraZeneca has entered into an agreement with UK-based biotechnology company Redx Pharma to license a porcupine inhibitor, RXC006, for fibrotic diseases.

The deal will allow AstraZeneca to carry out clinical development and commercialisation of the drug candidate for patients with fibrotic diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

An anti-fibrotic mechanism, porcupine inhibition suppresses Wnt ligand secretion from pro-fibrotic cells. Wnt ligands drive fibrotic processes and are highly expressed in diseases such as IPF.

Redx added that Wnt ligands modulate different disease biology characteristics and hence porcupine inhibition enables a potential anti-fibrotic approach.

AstraZeneca BioPharmaceuticals R&D executive vice-president Mene Pangalos said: “Fibrotic diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis have a significant impact on patients’ lives and new therapies are urgently needed.

“We look forward to progressing this porcupine inhibitor into clinical trials as a novel approach to suppress Wnt signalling and potentially modify fibrotic disease processes.”

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Under the deal, AstraZeneca will pay multiple early milestones equivalent to $17m, by the time of Phase I clinical trial launch.

Redx is also eligible for up to $360m from AstraZeneca in development, regulatory and commercial milestones over the duration of the agreement if these milestones are successfully achieved.

Meanwhile, Redx will continue to work on its lead oncology asset, RXC004, which is also a porcupine inhibitor and is in Phase I/II clinical study. The company is also developing an oral ROCK2 inhibitor, RXC007, for fibrosis, with trials planned for next year.

Redx Pharma CEO Lisa Anson said: “We are excited by the potential of porcupine inhibition as a novel approach to tackling fibrotic-associated diseases where there is a real patient need.

“This agreement, where AstraZeneca will license this first-in-class porcupine inhibitor for IPF and progress it into development, highlights, once again, Redx’s ability to generate molecules that have significant potential as novel medicines.”

Last month, AstraZeneca signed a new agreement to develop and commercialise Japanese company Daiichi Sankyo’s DS-1062 globally for various tumour types.