Parion Sciences licenses drug in potential windfall

Durham-based drug developer Parion Sciences has licensed its developmental therapy for dry eye disease to the Irish biotechnology company Shire, the companies announced on Monday.

Shire will now lead the development of the Phase 2 drug called P-321, which is aimed at treating dry eye disease in adults.

The licensing agreement could be a substantial windfall for Parion, which emerged from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999 and focuses on treating cystic fibrosis and ocular diseases. Specifics of the deal were not disclosed, but Shire is making an initial $20 million upfront payment for the license with an additional $20 million payment based on specific development achievements.

Parion, which is located near Research Triangle Park, will also be entitled to additional milestone payments with a total potential deal value of up to $535 million, the company said.

“Advancing P-321 with Shire, an emerging global leader in ophthalmics, offers the expertise and resources to move this promising potential therapy for dry eye sufferers forward,” Parion CEO Paul Boucher said in a statement. “This collaborative license agreement enables us the opportunity to contribute and participate in P-321’s success, while continuing our drive to progress Parion’s pipeline of novel therapies."

This is the second large licensing deal that Parion has made in recent years. In 2015, the company signed a licensing agreement for a cystic fibrosis drug worth up to $1.17 billion with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a publicly-traded company from Boston.

In the past, Parion has received support from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, a nonprofit organization funded by the N.C. General Assembly that promotes economic development in the state for life science company.

The Biotech Center has given the company more than $300,000 since 1995, when the company was in its early stages.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes