Nektar Therapeutics has pegged its fortunes to making drugs more effective. The clinical-stage drug development firm uses its PEGylation technology, (based upon polyethylene glycol) to improve the delivery and efficacy of existing drugs. Nektar's pipeline is focused on anti-infectives and anti-virals, immunology, oncology, and pain treatments. Its lead candidate NKTR-118 (which it is developing in collaboration with AstraZeneca) is being tested as a treatment for opioid-induced constipation. It also maintains a handful of preclinical candidates. Nektar receives royalties on about a dozen marketed products which include its technology, and developed in collaboration with partners including Amgen and Pfizer.
Nektar's NKTR-102 candidate is in three separate clinical trials for breast, colorectal, and ovarian cancers. As the drug advances into late-stage clinical trials the company intends to find a collaborative partner to help shepherd it through regulatory filings and commercialization.
Such collaborations are a key part of Nektar's business strategy and it routinely enters into partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies to help finance the development of new products. The company's development deal with AstraZeneca, struck in 2009, netted it $125 million up-front and gives it the opportunity to earn an additional $1.5 billion in milestone payments. Another collaboration with Bayer Healthcare is working on development and commercialization of an inhaled antibiotic in clinical trials for the treatment of certain pneumonias.
Past deals (resulting in marketed PEGylated drugs) have included Roche'shepatitis C drug PEGASYS and OSI Pharmaceuticals' Macugen (for age-related macular degeneration). The technology was also used to develop UCB's anti-inflammatory drug Cimzia, which won FDA approval as a treatment for Crohn's disease in 2008 and rheumatoid arthritis in 2009.
In 2008 Nektar changed from focusing on drug delivery to drug development after Pfizer stopped selling Exubera (inhaled insulin), which used its technology. The failure of the drug -- a much-hyped, first-of-its-kind product that flopped on the market -- led Nektar to cut its workforce by nearly 20% and to recast itself as a drug developer, rather than a provider of drug delivery services to other pharma firms. The switch led to a significant drop in the company's cash flow that year, however, it rebounded quickly by selling some operations and jumping head-on into drug development.
Nektar's revenues dipped in 2008 when it sold its pulmonary delivery assets, including manufacturing facilities, personnel, and intellectual property, to Novartis for $115 million. The two companies had worked together on the development of Tobramycin inhalation powder (TIP), a potential treatment for cystic fibrosis. Nektar retained some drug programs involving pulmonary delivery, including its inhaled vancomycin candidate. Collaboration partners also had lower demand for Nektar's manufacturing services in 2008, which deepened the dip in its revenues that year.
▲ Show Less▼ Show Full Description