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Setback for Potential Celiac Disease Drug AT-1001

By October 31, 2009

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Back in December 2007, there was a lot of fanfare when pharmaceutical giant Shire, headquartered in the U.K., signed an agreement with Alba Therapeutics Corp. in Maryland to collaborate in the development of Alba's potential new drug for celiac disease, known as AT-1001 (or larazotide acetate). Shire bought the development rights outside of the U.S. and Japan for AT-1001 for an upfront cost of $25 million, and newspapers at the time said the deal could eventually be worth more than $325 million, if AT-1001 met everyone's expectations.

Unfortunately, the results of clinical trials (research studies in humans) have been disappointing, and yesterday Shire announced it was terminating its deal with Alba. In a press release, Shire said, "On October 16, 2009 and following review of Phase 2 data, Shire informed Alba Therapeutics Corporation of its intent to terminate the collaboration. Effective November 15, 2009 Shire will return to Alba all rights to...larazotide acetate for celiac disease, also known as AT-1001."

In the same press release, Shire also announced its intention to terminate a collaboration with another company (Amicus Therapeutics, Inc.), and that company promptly announced it was laying off 20% of its staff. I haven't seen any similar announcements from Alba, but I'm afraid of what this means for AT-1001 and Alba's other projects.

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