BioMarin has entered into a pact with La Jolla Pharmaceutical to develop and commercialise the latter’s investigational drug for lupus nephritis, Riquent.

Under the terms of the deal, La Jolla could receive up to $289 million in cash through milestones and equity purchases by BioMarin, including a $15 million upfront payment. The deal covers the development of Riquent (abetimus sodium) worldwide, expect in the Asia-Pacific region.

Initial data from Phase III studies of Riquent is expected in the first quarter of 2009 and if the trial proves a success, the companies will share all losses and profits on a 50:50 basis. BioMarin chief executive Jean-Jacques Bienaime said “the development history of Riquent has been long and challenging, but we feel the current study addresses the shortcomings of prior studies”.

In particular, he says that the trial, named Aspen, “provides the best possible opportunity to demonstrate that Riquent reduces the frequency of renal flares in lupus nephritis patients”. The study, the largest ever conducted in lupus nephritis, shows “increasing evidence that Riquent targets one of the most important underlying causes of kidney disease in lupus patients, antibodies to double stranded DNA”, Mr Bienaime added.

He concluded by noting that there are no products specifically approved to treat lupus renal disease and if the Aspen study is successful, “Riquent provides BioMarin the opportunity to launch a product in the 2010 and 2011 timeframe in regions where we can leverage existing commercial operations”.