In a bid to boost its pipeline, Forest Laboratories has entered into a pact with TransTech Pharma, giving access to the latter’s portfolio of early-stage diabetes drugs.

Under the terms of the agreement, Forest will pay a $50 million upfront fee while TransTech could pocket up to $1.11 billion in development and commercial milestones, plus royalties. For its money, Forest is getting the rights to TTP399, which has completed Phase I studies and other compounds in Phase I and pre-clinical stages of development. All of the drugs are functionally liver-selective glucokinase activators.

TransTech, a privately-held firm based in North Carolina, retains the rights to the Middle East and North Africa markets, while Forest receives the exclusive rights for the rest of the world. TransTech chief executive Adnan Mjalli noted that “our GKAs are specifically selected to improve glycaemic control without exerting pressure on the pancreas to produce insulin”. He added that “we are encouraged by early data suggesting potential additional decreases in serum lipids which tend to be elevated in diabetic patients”.

His counterpart at Forest, Howard Solomon, said “we are impressed with TransTech's experience in selecting liver targeted GKAs that have the potential to contribute to diabetic control without increasing the risk of hypoglycaemia”. He added that the programme may “offer a unique and compelling new therapeutic option”.

Forest is on the look-out for new products, especially as its blockbuster antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram) will go off-patent in 2012.