Oyster Point sells China rights to nasal sprays for eye disease

Oyster Point Pharma has sold the rights to two nasal sprays for patients with dry eye disease in greater China to Ji Xing Pharmaceuticals for $17.5 million upfront. The deal comes ahead of an FDA decision that could make one of the drugs the first nasal spray approved for dry eye disease. 

Dry eye disease is currently treated with eye drops such as AbbVie’s Restasis and Novartis’ Xiidra. Oyster Point has identified an alternative route of administration, zeroing in on evidence that tears can be stimulated via receptors in the nose. The idea is to activate the trigeminal nerve in the nasal cavity and thereby drive tear production through parasympathetic stimulation.

With Oyster Point 10 weeks from an FDA decision on the approval of OC-01, the company has found a buyer for the Chinese rights to the therapy and another of its pipeline prospects. Ji Xing has given Oyster a 0.75% stake in its business, plus the upfront fee, and committed to up to $204.8 million in milestones to seal the deal. 

The agreement covers OC-01 and OC-02. OC-01 is a nasal spray formulation of varenicline, the active ingredient in Pfizer’s smoking cessation drug Champix. Oyster Point identified varenicline, a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist, as a drug that can boost tear production via the trigeminal parasympathetic pathway.

Ji Xing has picked up the rights to a second drug as part of the deal. OC-02 contains simpinicline, a different nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist. Oyster Point put the drug through two phase 2b trials in dry eye disease but, having wrapped those studies up in 2018, hasn’t initiated further work in the clinic.  

Having struck the deal, Ji Xing will work to bring a nasal spray treatment to the more than 150 million people who are thought to suffer from dry eye disease in China. Ji Xing will make the drugs in China and be responsible for development and commercialization in the licensed territory.