The European Patent Office has granted Verona pharma an additional key patent for its chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) drug, ensifentrine (RPL554). A corresponding patent has already been issued in the US.

The drug is currently in Phase IIb clinical trials for COPD, and has both bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory activity in a single agent, meaning it has the potential to address a major unmet need in COPD.

The patent further strengthens Verona Pharma’s intellectual property estate, which already includes eight issued U.S. patents and seven European patents, and provides exclusivity for ensifentrine products in key markets such as the US and Europe out to 2035.

In addition to the granted patents, over 50 applications are pending, which if granted could potentially extend the patent protection even further.

“The granting of this important patent adds a further layer of protection to ensifentrine as a novel potential treatment for COPD,” said Jan-Anders Karlsson, PhD, CEO of Verona Pharma.

“We remain focused on completing the final Phase 2b clinical trials with ensifentrine before advancing into Phase 3 in 2020. Ensifentrine has been administered to over 800 people and has generated strong efficacy data and been well tolerated. We believe this first-in-class dual PD3 and PD4 inhibitor can address a clear unmet medical need in COPD and has significant commercial potential.”

COPD is a progressive and life-threatening respiratory disease without a cure. The World Health Organisation estimates that it will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. In the United States alone, the 2010 total annual medical costs related to COPD were estimated to be $32 billion and are projected to rise to $49 billion in 2020.