Zealand’s Heart Damage Drug Draws Early Interest From Big Pharma

Zealand Pharma A/S, a Danish company working with Sanofi on diabetes medicines, is in early talks with potential partners for an experimental heart drug.

The medicine, called danegaptide, has drawn interest from large pharmaceuticals companies in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, Chief Executive Officer Britt Meelby Jensen said in an interview in London on Tuesday. Any partnership agreement will likely hinge on the results from a mid-stage study to be released in the first quarter of next year, she said.

Danegaptide is designed to prevent the tissue damage that occurs after doctors insert tiny balloons in a patient’s blood vessels to clear blockages blamed for heart attacks. The drug may become a $1-billion blockbuster, given that there are no other treatments for the condition, which can trigger later heart attacks, said Samir Devani, an analyst at Rx Securities in London. He cautioned that the development program could also fail, as did all others designed to address the tissue damage.

“We clearly see this as a high risk, but also, if we can show that it works, a high-potential product,” Jensen said. “We are preparing now so we will be able to enter an agreement relatively soon after” the trial results are released.

Zealand, based in Glostrup, Denmark, could also partner with a contract-research organization that specializes in large-scale clinical trials to retain ownership of the product in the last stage of tests, she said.

Jensen joined Zealand in January, after heading diagnostics company Dako and spending 11 years with Novo Nordisk A/S, focusing on marketing diabetes medicines. Zealand’s lead product is Lyxumia, a diabetes drug partnered with Sanofi. Lyxumia has been approved for sale in Europe, and Sanofi plans to submit it to U.S. regulators in the third quarter.

Lyxumia is also being tested in combination with Sanofi’s best-selling insulin Lantus, and late-stage trial results for the joint product, called LixiLan, will be released next quarter. The drug is likely to reach the market at around the same time as Novo Nordisk’s competing combination product, Xultophy, made with the two diabetes drugs Tresiba and Victoza, Jensen said.

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