Depomed has definitely learned the art of the deal. Ironwood Pharmaceuticals is the latest in a growing list of companies partnering with Depomed for its promising drug-delivery technology called AcuForm. Ironwood, based in Cambridge, MA, will use AcuForm to develop its pipeline beyond linaclotide, being evaluated in Phase III clinical trials for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with constipation and chronic constipation.
AcuForm contains "unique swelling polymers" that allow tablets to remain in the stomach for 8 to 9 hours for steady delivery to the upper gastrointestinal tract. This would allow greater efficacy, in addition to the convenience of once- or twice-daily dosing. Depomed says that, in addition to the benefits of decreased dosing and less irritation of the lower GI region, pharmaceutical companies might want to pay attention because it can provide differentiation to already approved therapeutics. This makes AcuForm a potentially attractive option for companies interested in developing improved formulations of off-patent drugs, the company says on its website.
The marketing appears to be working. In August 2010, Janssen Pharmaceutica, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, bought nonexclusive rights to use Depomed's AcuForm drug delivery technology for use in combination therapy. In March, Boehringer Ingelheim licensed worldwide rights to AcuForm to develop and commercialize extended release metformin for type 2 diabetes, among other compounds. And the technology has the attention of investors, as well.
Under the agreement with Ironwood, Depomed will help with the initial product formulation, then the rest is up to Ironwood in developing and commercializing whatever product comes out of it. Depomed will get paid an undisclosed license fee plus more payments after milestones and sales. The companies do not say what exactly Ironwood has up its sleeve that uses the AcuForm drug-delivery technology, but a release does say that it is for a "new non GC-C related gastrointestinal disorder program."