Novo to expand use of Emisphere's oral delivery platform in deal potentially worth $80M+

Novo Nordisk announced an expanded drug delivery partnership with Emisphere under which the Big Pharma will develop medications for metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity using the partner's Eligen platform for oral medications.

Novo ($NVO) and New Jersey's Emisphere began working together to develop oral GLP-1 receptor agonists against diabetes in 2008 and in 2010 signed a product development deal on Novo insulins worth up to $57.5 million in milestones.

Under the latest agreement, Emisphere receives $5 million up front and the chance to earn up to $82.5 million in development- and sales-based milestone payments, plus royalties on commercialized products. In return, Novo gets an exclusive license to develop candidates in three molecular classes and the nonexclusive right to develop candidates in a fourth molecular class. The fourth class accounts for $20 million of the potential milestone payments. According to a release, the $20 million comes in the form of development milestone payments, while the remaining $62.5 million in possible payouts can be either sales- or development-based.

Also, the agreement grants Novo the option to obtain exclusive or nonexclusive rights for the development and commercialization of additional oral formations. In addition to royalties on commercialized products, Emisphere can receive up to $62.5 million in development and sales milestones for each additional exclusively licensed molecule class and up to $20 million in development milestones per additional nonexclusively licensed molecule class.

The release also notes that Novo agreed to pay Emisphere $9 million in exchange for a reduction of future royalty payments related to its aforementioned GLP-1 licensing agreement.

The expanded oral drug delivery alliance comes on the heels of Novo's announcement of a three-year collaboration with MIT's Langer Lab focused on developing next-generation drug delivery devices for the administration of peptides using noninjectable methods, indicating the company is spreading its bets when it comes to drug delivery and administration methods. 

Meanwhile, Emisphere says its Eligen platform utilizes delivery agents or "carriers" to help drugs cross cell membranes in the intracellular lumen via passive cellular transport (or diffusion). Following delivery across the membrane, the carrier disjoins itself from the drug, according to the company website. The company touts the benefits of oral delivery over injections and says its platform can ward off drug degradation and improve absorption of the active ingredient.

Eligen was deployed in Novartis' ($NVS) oral calcitonin candidate to treat osteoporosis, but the candidate failed a Phase III trial in 2010 and is no longer listed in the company's pipeline.

The drug delivery specialist also sells an oral tablet for normalizing vitamin B-12 levels.

- read the release