Aeterna Acquires Rights to Develop Therapy for Primary Hypoparathyroidism

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by Forest Ray PhD |

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Aeterna Zentaris has entered into a licensing agreement with the University of Sheffield  to develop a potential therapy for adults with primary hypoparathyroidism, according to a recent press release.

The treatment candidate is based on parathyroid hormone (PTH) fusion polypeptides — chains of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. In particular, the fusion molecule consists of a modified growth hormone binding protein fused to the first 34 amino acids of PTH (PTH1-34) to mimic the natural hormone’s effects in the body.

Investigators hope that this approach will enable PTH1-34 to persist in the body for one to two weeks. This “delayed clearance” is expected to help patients maintain normal, healthy levels of calcium and phosphate in the blood over long-term use.

Low PTH levels that mark primary hypoparathyroidism cases lead to low levels of calcium and phosphate, resulting in symptoms such as muscle cramps, fatigue, seizures, and kidney problems.

According to Aeterna, the experimental therapy may be delivered by under-the-skin injection with a pharmaceutical pen. The company licensed intellectual property related to the PTH fusion polypeptides from the University of Sheffield.

Aeterna will work with Richard J. Ross, MD, a professor of endocrinology at the university, in developing the technology. The company will then perform additional confirmatory studies, before advancing the treatment into preclinical toxicology and other preliminary studies, and finalizing plans for clinical trials.

“We look forward to combining the expertise of the Aeterna scientific team with The University of Sheffield and Prof. Dr. Ross as we work towards our common goal of helping patients suffering from hypoparathyroidism,” said Klaus Paulini, PhD, Aeterna’s CEO.

Under the terms of the agreement, Aeterna obtained global rights to develop, manufacture, and commercialize the university’s PTH fusion polypeptides for all human uses. It paid £100,000 (about $139,000) upfront, and may make additional payments related to achieving certain milestones as well as royalties on sales.

“We look forward working with Aeterna to further the development of PTH fusion polypeptides,” Ross said, “which I believe have the potential to address an existing unmet medical need in the treatment of hypoparathyroidism and may also have the potential in certain other conditions such as osteoporosis.”

Sheffield will also conduct requested research for Aeterna, which the company will fund and hold rights to under the agreement.