Allergan Acquisition Furthers Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis Profile

Allergan acquires Akarna Therapeutics, and has plans to acquire Tobira Therapeutics.

Only a day after Allergan announced their plans to acquire Tobira Therapeutics, they have acquired another biopharmaceutical company, Akarna Therapeutics.

They also recently entered into contracts with several other biopharmaceutical companies to advance additional aspects of their portfolio.

Akarna Therapeutics develops small molecules for the treatment of inflammatory and fibrotic diseases, including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Both Tobira and Akarna focus on providing treatment options for patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

Included in the $50 million deal was AKN-083, and development-stage farnesoid X receptor compounds, according to a press release from Allergan. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is a severe type of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that develops when the accumulation of fat in the liver causes inflammation and cell damage.

This inflammation can lead to fibrosis that progresses into cirrhosis, portal hypertension, liver cancer, and liver failure. It is typically seen in patients who are middle-aged and have a high body mass index, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are also common among patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis; however, the disease does not strictly affect those with a high body mass index.

AKN-083 is potentially the best-in-class preclinical farnesoid X receptor (FXR) antagonist for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), according to Allergan.

“AKN-083 is a highly differentiated, selective FXR agonist which is a strongly validated therapeutic mechanism for the treatment of NASH,” said David Nicholson, chief research & development officer, Allergan. “In addition, AKN-083 is a non-bile acid FXR agonist that in preclinical studies has shown high affinity, potency and selectivity with a better tolerability profile. These characteristics make AKN-083 a great addition to our portfolio of assets for the treatment of NASH.”

FXR is a nuclear hormone receptor expressed in the body, and plays a role in regulating carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, bile-acid homeostasis, inflammation and fibrosis. All of these pathways are involved in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, according to Allergan.

The compound is also highly complementary to Cenicriviroc and Evogliptin, which are being developed by Tobira. There is currently no treatment for patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

Allergan hopes that their most recent acquisitions can provide new options for these patients.

“The acquisition of Akarna adds to our strategic approach to investing in innovation to advance the treatment of NASH for millions of patients who currently do not have therapeutic options to treat the disease,” said Brent Saunders, CEO and president of Allergan. “We look forward to advancing this unique compound into later stages of development, and to advancing our overall portfolio of NASH programs, as we focus on bringing forward effective treatments for this critical disease area.”