BERKELEY, Calif.—Adheron Therapeutics, a privately held biotechnology company based in Berkeley, California, has announced that it has agreed to be acquired by Basel, Switzerland-based Roche. Adheron Therapeutics has developed a pioneering technology that disrupts immune cell adhesion through a cell surface protein called Cadherin-11 in order to develop potential treatments for a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibrotic diseases. The lead asset, SDP051, a humanized monoclonal antibody targeting Cadherin-11, has completed Phase 1 of clinical development.
"We are very excited about this acquisition, as it is an important step towards the development of breakthrough medicines in the area of inflammation and fibrosis," said Hari Kumar, CEO of Adheron Therapeutics. "This deal brings together Adheron's deep understanding of the underlying science of Cadherin-11 with Roche's vast experience in researching and developing next generation medicines. We are proud to move our promising investigational medicine to the next level and into a new home at Roche."
Under the terms of the agreement, Adheron's shareholders will receive an upfront cash payment of $105 million, plus additional contingent payments of up to $475 million based on achievement of certain predetermined milestones. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and anticipated to close shortly.
Cadherin-11 (Cad-11) is a protein that acts as an "adhesive" between cells. Cadherin-11 is a surface protein expressed on fibroblasts in the skin and lungs, and fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) in the joints. It is a key mediator of joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis, and is also an important contributor to fibrotic pathology.
Adheron Therapeutics has completed a Phase 1 trial of SDP051, which assessed the safety and tolerability of the compound in healthy volunteers. Research completed in the laboratory of Michael Brenner, M.D., at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and at Adheron Therapeutics has implicated Cad-11 in the disease processes leading to rheumatoid arthritis and a number of fibrotic diseases.
RA is an autoimmune disease with prevalence worldwide of approximately 40 million. RA causes joints to become chronically inflamed, painful and swollen, and patients can become increasingly disabled as cartilage and bone is damaged. RA patients are often treated with a number of medicines, combining protein-based biologic therapies with methotrexate (MTX), the most common disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD).
Adheron Therapeutics is a biotechnology company focused on leveraging pioneering technology that disrupts cell adhesion to treat a variety of diseases. Founded by Drs. Michael Brenner and David Lee of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the company is led by industry veterans Bob Baltera (executive chairman) and Hari Kumar, Ph.D. (CEO), and funded by a group of venture investors comprising Health Care Ventures, MedImmune Ventures, Partners Innovation Fund, Amgen Ventures, and SROne.
According to Reuters, the deal fits into Roche's strategy of seeking small bolt-on acquisitions at a time when the company says prices for medium-sized biotech companies with experimental drugs in late-stage development have soared out of reach. Roche would continue to look at smaller acquisitions of firms with early-stage compounds several years from reaching the market, the company’s CEO Severin Schwan told Reuters last month.