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Developing first-in-class pharmaceuticals

R&D at Biotie Therapies focuses on discovering and developing new types of treatment for dependence and psychotic disorders and inflammatory diseases. Following its acquisition of German-based elbion, the company has expanded its product pipeline of new drugs targeted at diseases with a high unmet medical need.
Biotie Therapies Corp.

Biotie has a number of drug candidates under development, the most advanced of these being nalmefene. A specific opioid receptor antagonist, this is the first oral drug to have proved effective in reducing heavy drinking, and represents a major breakthrough in treating dependence disorders.

Unlike the pharmaceuticals currently available for treating alcohol dependence, which are designed to sustain abstinence once a person has stopped drinking, nalmefene helps people who are unwilling or unable to stop drinking completely reduce their alcohol intake. Two Phase III studies have been completed, and Biotie’s partner, Lundbeck, has additional ones under way.

This know-how has now been complemented by Buprenorphine Depot, a once-monthly treatment for opiate addiction, and PDE10 inhibitors for treating schizophrenia. Both projects are at the preclinical stage.

New expertise

The elbion acquisition has also brought significant synergies in addressing the challenges of inflammatory diseases, with the addition of expertise in phosphodiesterases.

ELB353, for example, is an orally available, selective anti-inflammatory drug that acts as an inhibitor of a phospodiesterase associated with chronic inflammation, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and psoriasis. There is no known cure for COPD at the moment, and existing treatments only alleviate its symptoms. Phase I clinical studies suggest that ELB353 has significant potential in the treatment of COPD.

Biotie’s fully human monoclonal VAP-1 antibody drug (BTT-1023) is the first product of its type for treating inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, and psoriasis. Positive results from the first-in-man study with the antibody, which blocks the VAP-1 receptor and regulates the migration of white blood cells to inflamed tissue, have resulted in a decision to proceed to clinical studies with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis patients. These will be aimed at establishing appropriate dosing regimens for subsequent studies and providing information on the therapeutic potential of BTT-1023.

Strong partners

To succeed on a highly competitive market, a small company like Biotie needs world-class partners. Biotie has had strong ties with Lundbeck, a specialist in drugs for treating psychiatric and neurological disorders, and Roche for some time. More recently, the company has signed a research collaboration and license agreement with Wyeth covering the development of PDE10 inhibitors for schizophrenia.

Biotie’s drug development work focuses on dependence disorders and inflammatory diseases.
> Timo Veromaa
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)