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Ligand, Azure Collaborate

Zacks Equity Research

Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. (LGND) recently joined forces with Azure Biotech for the development of a novel formulation of lasofoxifene. This novel formulation targets an underserved market in the field of women's health.

Under this deal, Ligand could receive $2.7 million on the achievement of future development and regulatory milestones. Further royalty payments of 5% on future net sales will also be paid to Ligand.

Lasofoxifene, the result of 1991 research collaboration between Ligand and Pfizer Inc. (PFE), is anestrogen partial agonist for the treatment of osteoporosis and other diseases.

Pfizer developed lasofoxifene, an oral lasofoxifene tartrate, which was approved in the EU in 2009. The trade name was Fablyn. However, the marketing authorization lapsed because of the company not being able to launch the drug within the stipulated timeframe. In early 2011, rights to all forms of lasofoxifene reverted to Ligand.

We remind investors that Ligand signed a major deal in Mar 2013 by entering into an agreement with Spectrum Pharmaceuticals (SPPI). Following the deal, Spectrum Pharma acquired global development and commercialization rights to Ligand’s Captisol-enabled, propylene glycol-free (PG-free) melphalan. Captisol-enabled melphalan is currently being developed as a conditioning treatment before autologous stem cell transplant for patients suffering from multiple myeloma.

Ligand will be receiving a license fee, milestone payments and royalties from Spectrum Pharma following potential commercialization of the candidate. Spectrum Pharma is now responsible for the ongoing pivotal clinical study on the candidate. The company expects to file a New Drug Application (:NDA) with the US Food and Drug Administration (:FDA) in the first half of 2014.

Ligandcarriesa Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Pfizer and Spectrum Pharma also carry a Zacks Rank #3. Right now, Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) looks well positioned with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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