AbbVie, Morphic Therapeutic Join Forces for Fibrotic Disease Treatments

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The companies will work together to advance a number of Morphic's oral integrin therapeutics for fibrosis-related indications in a deal with $100 million.

On Oct. 18, 2018, AbbVie and Morphic Therapeutic, a biotechnology company developing oral integrin therapies, announced that they have entered into a research and development collaboration to advance a number of Morphic's oral integrin therapeutics for fibrosis-related indications.

Under the terms of the agreement, AbbVie will pay Morphic an upfront payment of $100 million for exclusive license options on product candidates directed at multiple targets. For each compound, Morphic will conduct R&D activities through the completion of investigational new drug-enabling studies, at which point AbbVie may pay a license fee to exercise its exclusive license option and assume responsibility for global development and commercialization. Morphic is also eligible for additional, undisclosed clinical and commercial milestone payments and tiered royalties on worldwide net sales for each compound. Morphic retains cost-sharing rights in the development of liver fibrosis indications and may opt into paying a percentage of AbbVie's development costs in exchange for enhanced royalties. The transaction is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.

Fibrosis occurs when chronic inflammation or persistent injury leads to the development of excessive connective tissue, which can lead to organ damage and impaired function. Fibrotic diseases can affect nearly all tissues and organ systems and, due to limited treatment options, can cause serious illness and death, according to the companies.

Integrins are a ubiquitous family of receptors expressed on the surface of most human cells. Integrin signaling controls a range of cellular processes, including cell survival, cell-cycle progression, immune system activation, cell differentiation, and cell migration. Aberrant signaling contributes to an array of human diseases, including each of Morphic's focus areas of fibrosis, autoimmune diseases, and immuno-oncology.

Morphic developed a platform for designing integrin oral inhibitors to block TGF-β activation, thought to be a key approach to halt or reverse fibrosis, in a tissue-specific manner, according to AbbVie. The platform was developed through collaborations with Morphic’s scientific founder, Tim Springer, and Schrödinger, a developer of chemical simulation software for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and materials research applications.


According to Morphic, research in the Springer laboratory has demonstrated that, historically, compounds designed to turn off integrin activity inadvertently worked to promote it, leading to the subsequent failure of oral drug candidates directed at integrin targets. The platform has the potential to develop oral integrin antagonists that avoid these inadvertent activities that have hindered previous development of effective oral integrin therapeutics.

"Fibrosis represents a major area of medical need as it can impact nearly every major organ system and has limited targeted treatments to address the underlying cause," said Lisa Olson, PhD, vice president, immunology discovery, AbbVie, in a company press release. "We believe that integrin biology could play an important role in the future treatment paradigm of serious immune-mediated diseases where fibrotic mechanisms contribute to the pathology. We are pleased to partner with the team at Morphic to develop therapies together for patients with these serious conditions."

"We welcome the global scientific and clinical development expertise of AbbVie as a strategic collaborator and look forward to investigating together the role of integrin biology in the potential treatment of multiple devastating human diseases involving fibrosis," said Praveen Tipirneni, MD, president and chief executive officer, Morphic Therapeutic, in a company press release. "Combined with our recent financing, we are in an excellent position to further the development of our pipeline and more fully extract value from what we believe is the world's only broad-based structure enabled integrin drug discovery platform­."

Source: AbbVieMorphic Therapeutic