Gene Logic Inc., a Gaithersburg drug information provider, has struck a deal with Pfizer Inc. to discover new treatment options for the pharmaceutical firm's drugs that have stalled or failed in testing for their original uses.
The agreement with one of the world's premier drug developers is the first major deal for Gene Logic in its year-old effort to become the go-to firm for companies eager to salvage disappointing products. As drug companies have sought to bolster stagnant product pipelines, many, including Pfizer, have turned to partnerships or purchases of biotech firms, which are rich in novel drug candidates.
Reaching out to find new uses for stalled or failed drugs could mark yet another strategy. Viagra, for example, was originally targeted as a cardiovascular drug. The Eli Lilly and Co. drug Evista had been intended as birth control. Now it is used to prevent osteoporosis.
"This is the beginning of an important new trend in the industry," said Mark D. Gessler, Gene Logic's chief executive, who thinks there are more than 2,000 failed products sitting on drug company shelves waiting to be repositioned. "The pharmaceutical industry is working very hard to push drugs through. But the vast majority of drugs fail somewhere in the pipeline."
Under terms of the agreement with Pfizer, Gene Logic received no money up front. The company is to receive undisclosed payments if it makes progress finding new indications for the drugs. If a new product is brought to market, Gene Logic would receive royalties on sales.
Gene Logic is testing 17 failed drugs under similar agreements. It has found potential new uses for four, although the firm has declined to identify the drugs or the new treatment options for them. Gessler also declined to identify the Pfizer drugs it would study.
Gene Logic officials say they can identify the new treatment options, if there are any, in less than a year. They use animal testing combined with a variety of cellular and genomic technologies, many of which were acquired last year from Millennium Pharmaceuticals to jump start the new business area.
When Gene Logic researchers think they have discovered a new use for a drug, they turn over the testing data to the drug company and the two parties decide on what further testing needs to be done.
Most of the drugs Gene Logic is examining failed in advance testing, meaning they had already cleared safety hurdles but failed to live up to their therapeutic promise. That also means that drug companies could quickly move repositioned products into advanced human testing, saving millions of dollars.
News of the deal with Pfizer sent Gene Logic's stock up 10 percent, or 45 cents, to $4.94 per share.