US biopharma currently employs 139 people, 110 of whom work in R&D, said the strategy would see it scale-back its in-house discovery and preclinical research efforts and concentrate on its collaborations with Roche and Baxter.
Halozyme CEO Jonathan Lim explained that the new development-focused plan, coupled with partners’ efforts to meet launch targets, could help the firm reach "breakeven" as early as 2013.
Key to both collaborations is the Enhanze platform, which uses an enzyme, rHuPH20, to temporarily breakdown hyaluronan in the interstitial space between cells creating what Halozyme describes as “an opportunistic window that allows the delivery of injectable biologics.”
Roche, which has licensed rights to apply Enhanze to 13 product candidates, has so far used the technology to develop subcutaneous formulations of three drugs, while Baxter has applied it to its Phase III immunodeficiency candidate Gammagard.
Baxter also uses a second Halozyme technology, a human recombinant formulation of hyaluronidase named Hylenex, to enhance the absorption characteristics of a product that is already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
But, while the main focus of Haloyme’s revised strategy will be on the development of external projects, the firm will also continue to work on a few drug candidates in its own pipeline.
Foremost of these is the diabetes treatment, Ultrafast Insulin, which is currently in Phase II assessments that are expected to begin producing clinical data sometime in 2011.
Next on the list is PEGPH20, which is a pegylated form of the enzyme H20 that is designed to attack the protective hyaluron (HA) containing halos that 20 to 30 per cent of solid tumor cells use as a protection mechanism.
The drug is also in early clinical trials, but has demonstrated the ability to both reduce tumor size and lower their interstitial fluid pressure, potentially making the cancerous cells more susceptible to other anticancer agents.
Halozyme’s final ongoing project, and perhaps its most exciting from the point of view of sales potential, will be the recombinant human enzyme HT1-501.
This preclinical candidate is designed to break down collagen fibrils which, in addition to scar formation, play a role in the development of both contractures and cellulite.
The firm believes that HT1-501’s range of potential applications mean it has blockbuster potential if preclinical performance is repeated in soon to be initiated clinical studies.