AstraZeneca has signed an exclusive licence agreement with Chinese biopharmaceutical company Eccogene for its investigational obesity and diabetes treatment ECC5004.

ECC5004 is an investigational oral once-daily glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist (GLP-1RA), currently in Phase 1 study in healthy participants and patients with type-2 diabetes.

Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will obtain exclusive rights to develop and commercialise ECC5004 for all indications across the world, excluding China.

In China, Eccogene and AstraZeneca will jointly develop and commercialise ECC5004.

The drugmaker will make an initial upfront payment of $185m and up to $1.825bn in future clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones and tiered royalties.

In the Phase 1 trial preliminary results, ECC5004 showed a differentiating clinical profile, with good tolerability and encouraging glucose and body weight reduction, compared to placebo.

AstraZeneca biopharmaceuticals R&D executive vice president Sharon Barr said: “ECC5004 further strengthens our existing pipeline addressing both incretin and non-incretin pathways, including our GLP-1/glucagon dual agonist [AZD9550] and long-acting amylin analogue [AZD6234].”

Eccogene CEO Jingye Zhou said: “GLP-1RA represents a very important class of drugs for multiple cardiometabolic diseases; currently there is no approved orally available small molecule GLP-1RA. Small molecule GLP-1RA, such as ECC5004, could potentially offer more dosing convenience and ease of use compared to existing GLP-1RA therapies.

“AstraZeneca has impressive global capabilities in clinical development and commercialisation. This important collaboration between Eccogene and AstraZeneca will accelerate the development of ECC5004, a once-daily, low dose, orally available small molecule GLP-1RA to benefit the millions of patients worldwide living with these diseases.”

In a separate development, AstraZeneca has unveiled positive results from the Phase 3 EMERALD-1 study of its Imfinzi (durvalumab) plus transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE) and bevacizumab.

In the Phase 3 study, the combination showed a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in the primary endpoint of progression-free survival (PFS), compared to TACE alone in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) eligible for embolisation.

The safety profiles for Imfinzi and TACE plus bevacizumab were in line with the known profile of each medicine, with no new safety findings, said the British drugmaker.

Phase 3 EMERALD-1 trial principal investigator Riccardo Lencioni said: “Patients with liver cancer eligible for embolisation experience high rates of progression or recurrence and do not have the opportunity for early intervention with effective systemic therapy.

“These results for durvalumab plus bevacizumab have the potential to reshape the treatment of this complex disease with a poor prognosis by showing for the first time that adding an immunotherapy combination to TACE significantly improves progression-free survival.”