I didn't note it at the time, but Amgen just recently finished buying a smaller company, Alantos. That cost them about $300 million, and for that money they got a diabetes drug in the clinic and a program generating compounds for arthritis and other diseases.
Sound OK, eh? That's the one-line executive summary right there, but look closer: the diabetes drug is a DPP-IV inhibitor. There's nothing wrong with that, except that this one is going to be what, if it makes it to market - fourth in line? Fifth? I've lost count. The Alantos compound may be a good one (Amgen certainly thinks so), but it's a crowded space, for sure.
And the arthritis drugs? Matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors. No, no, it really is 2007, not 1995. MMPs have been the subject of a big old pile of drug development over the years, all of which (to my knowledge) has come to grief. Again, there may be something particularly good about these (Amgen certainly thinks so), but it's a well-trodden space, for sure.
This deal makes me wonder a bit about Amgen's small-molecule pipeline. They don't talk much about it, although they have a lot of people doing traditional med-chem these days. No one seems to know what they're up to, though, and the inlicensing of drugs from such well-known therapeutic classes - ones that have not been particularly difficult to find lead compounds for, yet - is food for thought.
(As a sideline, Alantos, at least in its early days, was a champion of relatively exotic approaches like dynamic combinatorial chemistry, which I'll have to write a post on some day. Anyone know if these compounds came from that kind of work, or is this another case where the neat stuff never generated any drugs?)