Sirona is not beating around the bush: the company has had a difficult time selling its diabetes med and is now “less confident” it will score a licensing deal.
The candid about-face came in a corporate update Thursday, with the Canadian biotech saying that efforts to find a partner for TFC-039 have been “notably slow primarily due to the challenges in obtaining the clinical data held by our external partner.”
That’s a not-so-subtle dig at Wanbang Biopharmaceuticals in China, which Sirona has maintained an on-again, off-again relationship with for years. Sirona first out-licensed China rights for TFC-039 to Wanbang in 2014 but the latter company stopped further development in 2021 after completing a phase 1 trial. The two companies inked a new global partnership a year later, in November 2022, though the terms of the deal were not spelled out. Sirona only pocketed $1.5 million in upfront and milestone payments from the first China-focused pact.
The med is a sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor, a class of metabolic medicines that’s churned out treatments like Johnson & Johnson’s Invokana and AstraZeneca and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Forxiga. Sirona says that while looking for someone to help take TFC-039 forward, it has made “significant new advancements in the field of SGLT2 inhibitors.” What those advancements were, exactly, the biotech didn’t say. Evidently, they’re enough that the company isn’t axing all work on the class, saying that they’ll advance the new discoveries that have been made.
According to the company’s website, Sirona was in late-stage discussions with four “major interested parties” from the animal health sector. And it’s been in the process of securing a patent on a new indication that’s yet to be unveiled.
Sirona’s latest update today suggests a bleak outlook for the med, which is the company’s lead foray into the pharmaceutical business after Sirona initially established itself as a cosmetic company. The biotech is also testing anti-viral compounds in collaboration with the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, a research outpost originally launched by the United Nations that’s been independent for almost 30 years. Sirona says results of those tests “are expected within the next two months.”