News Feature | May 28, 2014

Ligand Pharmaceuticals To License Five Programs to Viking Therapeutics

By Cyndi Root


Ligand Pharmaceuticals announced in a press release that it has licensed five drug candidates and programs to Viking Therapeutics. The licensed agents are treatments for type 2 diabetes, muscle wasting, anemia, and dyslipidemia.

John Higgins, President and CEO of Ligand Pharmaceuticals said that the deal was a creative licensing transaction that can advance Ligand’s early and mid-stage assets over the next 12 to 24 months. He said, “Our objective is to establish proof-of-concept and solid initial data packages, and then to partner with companies that are well-positioned to manage advanced clinical and regulatory development.” Brian Lian, President and CEO of Viking Therapeutics, said in its press release, “Each of the licensed programs has what we believe to be first-in-class or best-in-class characteristics and a differentiated therapeutic profile.”

Ligand and Viking Agreement

The agreement calls for a $2.5 million Ligand investment in Viking via a convertible loan instrument, used to pay Viking’s operating and financing-related expenses. Each drug candidate or program merits a fee paid to Ligand in Viking equity if private or public financing is obtained. Viking will also make milestone payments and royalties based on net sales. Viking agrees to be responsible for all drug development activities.

Drug Candidates and Programs

The five drug candidates fit into Viking’s focus on diabetes and endocrine conditions. There are two candidates for dyslipidemia, and one for type 2 diabetes, muscle wasting, and anemia, for a total of five licenses. One of the drug candidates is part of the FBPase Inhibitor program, optioned to Viking in 2012.

  • FBPase - VK0612 is a selective inhibitor of fructose-1, 6-bisphosphatase, or FBPase, with glucose-lowering effects in patients with type 2 diabetes.
  • SARM - VK5211 is a non-steroidal SARM for cancer cachexia, a muscle wasting syndrome. It produces testosterone benefits with improved safety, tolerability, and patient acceptance.
  • TRβ - VK0214 is a liver-selective TRβ agonist that reduces or eliminates the deleterious effects of extra-hepatic thyroid receptor activation in lipid disorders like dyslipidemia and NASH.
  • EPOR – These small molecule agonists have the potential to treat anemia. This class of drug candidates shows promise in improved tolerability and safety. 
  • DGAT-1 – These small molecule inhibitors are meant for treatment of dyslipidemia and obesity.

Viking’s Brian Lian said that the development strategy will focus on clinical success with the FBPase, SARM, and TRβ programs. With the EPOR and DGAT-1 programs, he expects to establish a non-clinical proof-of-concept.