- Global Pharma News & Resources

Almirall and Inserm Transfert enter into a licensing and research collaboration to develop innovative treatments for vitiligo

Almirall and Inserm Transfert enter into a licensing and research collaboration to develop innovative treatments for vitiligo



  • The collaboration will advance treatment options for vitiligo patients with a high level of unmet medical needs


  • Through this partnership, Inserm laboratory’s knowledge of vitiligo will be combined with Almirall’s strong expertise in drug discovery to promote the identification and development of novel compounds to induce skin repigmentation in vitiligo patients


BARCELONA, Spain and Paris, France, May 18, 2022 – Almirall, S.A. (ALM), a global biopharmaceutical company focused on skin health, and Inserm Transfert, the private subsidiary of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), today announced a licensing agreement and research collaboration to advance treatment options for vitiligo. The partnership, signed by Inserm Transfert, on behalf of Inserm, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire of Nice and University of Nice Côte d’Azur, will focus on identifying and developing a novel class of medicines that modulate the Wnt pathway, a key target involved in skin repigmentation.

Vitiligo is a chronic skin condition that affects 0.5 to 2% of the worldwide population[i] and is associated with a loss of pigmentation.[ii] For patients, the visibility of the lesions is perceived as disfiguring and burdensome.[iii],[iv],[v] Consequently, there is a high level of psychological burden3,[vi] as well as treatment needs.[vii] Despite this, the condition is an underserved market with high unmet medical need for differentiated products with novel mechanisms of action, especially to treat some resistant locations that are frequently involved such as the hands.

Through this partnership, the knowledge of Prof. Thierry Passeron’s team at the Mediterranean Centre for Molecular Medicine (C3M  -Inserm U1065- University of Nice Côte d’Azur), who has been at the forefront of research in vitiligo, will be combined with Almirall's expertise in drug discovery to identify and develop new topical compounds for the treatment of the condition. Almirall has also been granted global rights to Inserm’s background patents on the use of Wnt agonists in the treatment of vitiligo.

Vitiligo can have a huge impact on patients' quality of life. We are pleased to announce this new collaboration with a centre of excellence such as Inserm to develop innovative treatments for this skin condition. This milestone once again demonstrates Almirall's commitment to improving the lives of patients in an underserved disease where there are still significant unmet needs”, stated Karl Ziegelbauer, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at Almirall.

“The collaboration with Prof. Passeron’s group is a prime example of Almirall’s desire to collaborate with academic centres of excellence to advance research into areas of significant unmet need. Building on the expertise of Almirall´s external Innovation & Licensing team, we are perfectly positioned to tap into an increasingly innovative and collaborative environment in Europe, as demonstrated by Inserm Transfert in France”, added Volker Koscielny, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Almirall.


It is mandatory to induce the differentiation and the proliferation of melanocyte stem cells for promoting the repigmentation of the lesions. The Wnt signaling pathway is key in this process and we demonstrated that this pathway is significantly altered in vitiligo skin”, explained Prof. Thierry Passeron, MD, PhD, Professor of Dermatology at University Hospital of Nice and Laboratory Head at Inserm, Nice. “This partnership will allow developing topical compounds to stimulate this pathway and to repigment vitiligo lesions. This approach is innovative and unique, and should allow repigmenting vitiligo lesions, including in classical resistant areas”, added Prof. Passeron.

SHINE, Almirall’s initiative to drive sustainable innovation in dermatology

The partnership with Inserm Transfert is part of SHINE, an initiative launched by Almirall that aims to boost innovation in dermatology by promoting collaborations with centres of excellence such as those recently announced with the University of Dundee and the University of Michigan. This project also allows for a deeper understanding of dermatological diseases, access to new technologies and the discovery of innovative therapeutic approaches.

This initiative is a further demonstration of Almirall's commitment to science excellence and collaboration with the scientific community to provide new potential solutions in key therapeutic areas. The project creates substantial value for Almirall by enriching the R&D portfolio with innovative projects and indication expansion, increasing the quality and speed of R&D execution.

About Inserm

Founded in 1964, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) is a public science and technology institute, jointly supervised by the French Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research, and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Women’s Rights. Inserm is the only French public research institute to focus entirely on human health and positions itself on the pathway from research laboratory to the bed of the patient. The mission of its scientists is to study all diseases, from the most common to the rarest.

For more information, please visit

About Inserm Transfert

Inserm Transfert, the private subsidiary of the French National Institute of the Health and Medical Research (Inserm), is responsible for value creation of innovations of Inserm and its academic partners in human health and promotes long-term technology transfers in line with international best practices. Inserm Transfert SA was founded in 2000, and manages, under a Public Service Management Contract (Délégation de Service Public), the entire promotion and transfer of knowledge emerging from the Inserm research laboratories to the industrial world, from invention disclosure to industrial partnerships and startups incorporation. Inserm Transfert also offers services relating to setting up and managing national, European and international projects, as well as supporting the technology transfer of clinical research and health data/databases. In 2009, Inserm Transfert and Inserm established an investment fund to finance proofs of concept. In 2005, Inserm Transfert Initiative, a dedicated seed money fund for life sciences, was created. Since 2017 a pathway for pre-entrepreneurship supports researchers/inventors who aspire to become involved in entrepreneurship.

About Almirall

Almirall is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on skin health. We collaborate with scientists and healthcare professionals to address patient’s needs through science to improve their lives.  Our Noble Purpose is at the core of our work: “Transform the patients' world by helping them realize their hopes and dreams for a healthy life”. We invest in differentiated and ground-breaking medical dermatology products to bring our innovative solutions to patients in need.

The company, founded in 1943 and headquartered in Barcelona, is publicly traded on the Spanish Stock Exchange and is a member of the IBEX35 (ticker: ALM). Throughout its 79-year history, Almirall has retained a strong focus on the needs of patients. Currently, Almirall has a direct presence in 21 countries and strategic agreements in over 70, with about 1,800 employees. Total revenues in 2021 were 836.5 million euros.

For more information, please visit

[i] Hann, S. K., & Nordlund, J. J. (2000). Vitiligo: A monograph on the basic and clinical science. In Vitiligo: A monograph on the basic and clinical science (pp. xiv-306). 

[ii] Rodrigues M, Ezzedine K, Hamzavi I, Pandya AG, Harris JE; Vitiligo Working Group. New discoveries in the pathogenesis and classification of vitiligo. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;77(1):1–13. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2016.10.048

[iii] Elbuluk N, Ezzedine K. Quality of life, burden of disease, co-morbidities, and systemic effects in vitiligo patients. Dermatol Clin. 2017;35(2):117–128. doi:10.1016/j.det.2016.11.002

[iv] Morrison B, Burden-Teh E, Batchelor JM, Mead E, Grindlay D, Ratib S. Quality of life in people with vitiligo: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Dermatol. 2017;177(6):e338–e339. doi:10.1111/bjd.15933

[v] Radtke MA, Schäfer I, Gajur A, Langenbruch A, Augustin M. Willingness-to-pay and quality of life in patients with vitiligo. Br J Dermatol. 2009;161(1):134–139. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2009.09091.x

[vi] Osinubi O, Grainge MJ, Hong L, et al. The prevalence of psychological co-morbidity in people with vitiligo: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Dermatol. 2018;178(4):863–878. doi:10.1111/bjd.16049

[vii] Augustin M, Gajur AI, Reich C, Rustenbach SJ, Schaefer I. Benefit evaluation in vitiligo treatment: development and validation of a patient-defined outcome questionnaire. Dermatology. 2008;217(2):101–106. doi:10.1159/000128992

Editor Details

Last Updated: 18-May-2022