Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk has bought a global licence for EpiDestiny’s sickle cell disease (SCD) programme, EPI01.

EPI01 is a novel, orally available, disease-modifying therapy, comprised of a fixed-dose formulation of a DNA methyl-transferase enzyme 1 and cytidine deaminase inhibitor, decitabine and tetrahydrouridine.

Early clinical data indicate that the therapy boosts levels of foetal haemoglobin (HbF) and interrupts SCD pathophysiology.

Increasing levels of HbF is linked with increased red blood cell half-life, reduced number of pain crises and increased life expectancy, the firms noted, highlighting its therapeutic potential.

The companies intend to work together on development of the programme in SCD and beta-thalassaemia.

Under the terms of the deal, EpiDestiny stands to receive more than $400 million in upfront, development and sales milestone payments and is also in line for royalties on net sales.

"This is a great opportunity for Novo Nordisk to enter into a new therapeutic area closely related to our existing biopharmaceutical business and thereby utilise our core R&D and commercial capabilities to make a significant difference for patients living with a serious chronic disease,” said Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, executive vice president and chief science officer of Novo Nordisk.

"The support we receive from Novo Nordisk will allow EpiDestiny to invest and explore the full potential of EPI01 within oncology and to pursue our other pipeline compounds in oncology and other indications,” added the firm’s president and chief executive officer Santhosh Vadivelu.