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Ligand Establishes Program to Develop Captisol-Enabled, Next-Generation Contrast Agents for Diagnostic Imaging

Friday, January 19, 2018

Ligand Pharmaceuticals Incorporated announces initiation of a program to develop contrast agents with reduced renal toxicity. Contrast agents are injectable solutions used during diagnostic imaging procedures. Through this new, internally-funded program, Ligand intends to advance products toward proof-of-concept, followed by selling or out-licensing them for further development and commercialization. The program will leverage Ligand’s patented Captisol® technology, as well as data and intellectual property obtained through its acquisition of Verrow Pharmaceuticals.

“We view this new initiative as a valuable expansion of Ligand’s pipeline of internally developed programs that utilize our proprietary technologies and IP,” said John Higgins, Chief Executive Officer of Ligand. “Contrast agents are an important component of the diagnostic imaging market; however, they can be toxic and are known to cause kidney damage in some patients. Captisol is a patented, specialized cyclodextrin that plays a role in protecting kidneys from the damaging effects of these agents. This is a potentially highly lucrative product opportunity that Ligand is able to pursue given our ownership of Captisol and our relationships with inventors and scientists in the cyclodextrin field. We are excited to have this program in development and to have secured the associated program rights through our recent acquisition of Verrow Pharmaceuticals.”

Verrow Pharmaceuticals is a privately-held Lenexa, Kansas-based medical invention company that Ligand acquired in January 2018 for $2 million in cash plus earnouts.

Program Highlights:

  • Contrast agents are used to enhance diagnostic imaging. Despite their benefits and widespread use, contrast agents put an estimated one-fourth of users at risk for renal damage.1
  • Captisol-enabled (CE) iohexol has been shown to prevent nephrotoxicity by more than 50% in animal models.2
  • Large U.S. market of approximately 20 million imaging procedures per year with iodinated contrast agents, representing an estimated $1.5 billion in annual sales.3
  • Initial internal program focused on a CE formulation of iohexol given the large global market, lack of alternatives and focused development path for use in the cardiovascular setting.
  • CE-iohexol program to focus on partnering-enabling studies, with an estimated $6 million of program spend by Ligand over approximately three years.
  • Acquisition of Verrow Pharmaceuticals opens opportunities for broader “nephroprotection use” of Captisol in other hospital-based diagnostics and treatments.
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