Amgen acquires Avidia for $290 million

Deal sees biotech giant pick up Avimer proteins platform.

Jeffrey Bouley
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.—Marking the third time in three years that it has acquired a Bay Area-based biotech, Amgen announced in late September that it had entered into a definitive merger agreement to acquire Avidia, a privately held biopharmaceuti­cal company that discovers and develops a new class of human therapeutic known as Avimer proteins.
 
Company spokesperson David Polk confirms that the trans­action did indeed get antitrust approval and was completed on October 24, though he was not able to comment on any other details of the future of the 37-employee company other than the fact it is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Amgen. Amgen has facilities both Fremont, Calif., and South San Francisco, employing approximately 370 workers and 600 workers in those locations, respectively.
 
Under terms of the agreement, Amgen paid $290 million cash, net of existing cash balances and Amgen's existing equity stake in Avidia, and will pay up to $90 mil­lion upon the achievement of cer­tain milestones.
 
The transaction provides Amgen with Avidia's lead product candi­date, an inhibitor of interleukin-6 for the treatment of inflammation and autoimmune diseases, which is in Phase I clinical trials.
 
Avidia, which was founded in 2003 as a spin-off from Maxygen with venture capital money from Amgen and others, focuses on using proteins to develop drugs to treat inflammation, autoimmune diseases and other ailments. The company's biotherapeutics consist of single protein chains composed of modular binding domains, like beads on a string. Each bead is designed to bind to a particular target site, thus increasing the rel­ative amount of the drug where it is most needed and decreasing the amount of the drug where it isn't desired, creating more favorable safety profiles. Avidia's method has been described by some as a "LEGO approach" because it can hit multiple epitopes on a target and multiple targets.
 
"The Avimer technology is among the most attractive protein-based technologies currently under development," says Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, Amgen's executive vice president for research and devel­opment. "Avimers may have sever­al advantages as therapeutic prod­ucts in terms of biological activity, tissue distribution, reduced immu­nogenicity and improved manu­facturing efficiencies."
 
The proteins Avidia uses work in a manner similar to monoclonal antibodies but the company's tech­nology isn't encumbered by hefty royalty payments that are often associated with monoclonal anti­bodies, adding to the value propo­sition for Amgen in the acquisition deal, according to Morgenthaler Ventures of Menlo Park, Calif., one of Avidia's early venture backers.
 
In addition to Amgen Ventures and Morgenthaler, other venture backers of Avidia included Skyline Ventures of Palo Alto, Calif.; Alloy Ventures of Palo Alto; HealthCare Ventures of Cambridge, Mass.; MedImmune Ventures Inc. of Gaithersberg, Md.; and TPG Ventures of Menlo Park, Calif.

Jeffrey Bouley

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