Acquisitions galore – Morphosys, Gilead and Agilent

Several big acquisitions occurred over the past week.

Martinsreid-based Morphosys recently acquired Dutch biopharmaceutical Lanthio Pharma for 20 million Euro. Morphosys had already owned 19.98% of Lanthio but decided to fully acquire it based on its promising lead candidate for organ fibrosis, LP2, now renamed MOR107. MOR107 is a lanthipeptide which is a thioether cross-link (aka lanthionine-bridge) containing peptide produced by bacteria, Lactococcus lactis. Lanthio Pharma-synthesized lanthipeptides are reportedly more stable than natural linear peptides, being more resistant to peptidases and having a more rigid receptor-binding interface, thereby conferring it with better “drug-like” properties. MOR107 showed potent angiotensin II type 2 (AT2) receptor agonist activity and was effective in animal models of Idiopathic Pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and kidney fibrosis. It is targeted to enter clinical trials in 2016 for diabetic nephropathy and other fibrotic diseases.

Gilead Sciences spent 57 million Euro for Danish epigenetics company, EpiTherapeutics. EpiTherapeutics was started in 2008 by renown epigenetics researcher Dr Kristian Helin. Helin is also the founder of Denmark’s Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) and has discovered and characterized four groups of histone demethylases, enzymes that regulate epigenetic signatures. EpiTherapuetics has developed a library small molecule inhibitors mostly targeting these histone demethylases, and they are being applied for the treatment of cancer. With Helin’s backing EpiTherapeutics has not had to struggle to find funding which previously came from various venture firms including Novo Seeds, Lundbeckfond Ventures, Merck Serono Ventures, OSI Pharmaceuticals and SEED Capital. Now under Gilead, plans are to take these small molecule inhibitors to the clinic.

Finally, Agilent Technologies acquired for an undisclosed sum, Cartagenia, a company that supplies software and services for clinical genetics and molecular pathology labs. Cartagenia caters to a much required need for handling, analyzing, integrating and sharing clinical genetic data. As next-generation sequencing becomes cheaper and personalized therapy dictates the genetic screening of patients for subsequent treatment options, the management of this data and the way it is shared among institutions has to be performed carefully and efficiently. Cartagenia certainly provides the impression of being an efficient solution provider and Agilent is definitely catching the worm early as it homes in on this rather new type of service.


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