Inspire Pharmaceuticals will pay up to $11 million for the right to line up a second supplier for its experimental cystic fibrosis drug.
The Durham company currently has a contract to buy the drug's key ingredient exclusively from Yamasa Corp. of Japan. But Inspire will pay Yamasa $3.3 million now, with additional payments in the future, for the ingredient's license.
Company officials are seeking a second supplier to reduce the risks that come with having only one supply source.
"Our main goal is to have plenty of supply of denufosol when it's approved to treat cystic fibrosis," said Inspire spokeswoman Jenny Kobin. "We certainly don't want patients to run out. We are in the process of identifying a second supplier."
Yamasa is probably best known for making soy sauce in China and the United States, but the company also makes active ingredients for pharmaceutical products.
Inspire is still testing its cystic fibrosis drug, called denufosol, and isn't expected to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration before 2011.
Company leaders also are continuing the process of finding a new CEO to replace Christy Shaffer, who announced in late July that she plans to step down after 11 years running Inspire.
Inspire shares, which have more than doubled in the past year, fell 14 cents to $4.85 today.