Small company hits a home run with fibrosis-focused deal.
Biogen Idec says it will pay $75 million and as much as $487.5 million more in milestone payments to buy the privately-held fibrosis and organ failure specialist Stromedix, a company founded by a former top Biogen research executive when he quit and out-licensed a promising molecule from Biogen.
The novel antibody, STX-100, is poised to enter a mid-stage trial in patients with a an unexplained scarring of the lung known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Biogen believes it has potential to be applied across a wide range of fibrotic diseases.
Biogen is undoubtedly happy to recoup investments it has made in the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, which also received broad support from venture investors. “Stromedix is, as far as I know, one of the rare success stories of a big company externalizing R&D and then recapturing its value,” wrote Bruce Booth, a partner at Atlas Venture, where Stromedix began life as an Atlas-incubated startup.
During Stromedix’s five-year life, it raised just $38 million in equity capital, says Booth, and became a “poster child of virtual drug development,” with just six core experience employees and a lot of assistance from academic labs and contract research organizations.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Stromedix’s first target, is a debilitating and mostly fatal disease causing progressive difficulty in breathing due to scarring of the lung. More than 200,000 patients in the United States are believed to suffer from the disease, though estimates vary widely.
Treatment options are minimal and there is no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for the disease, though Intermune has secured approval for its treatment, pirfenidone, in both Japan and the European Union, where it is marketed as Esbriet. Pirfenidone is currently in a late-stage clinical trial in the United States. Academic researchers and companies such as Boehringer Ingelheim are also testing therapies. In July 2011, Bristol-Myers Squibb made a deal to pay as much as $475 million for Amira Pharmaceuticals to buy its fibrosis program.
By MICHAEL FITZHUGH