Ardea Biosciences: Drug discovery from the ashes of IntraBiotics

The company formerly known as IntraBiotics Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is rebuilding itself as Ardea Biosciences, Inc., after acquiring intellectual property, data, inventory, and equipment from Valeant Pharmaceuticals International and hiring a new management team.

Lisa Espenschade
CARLSBAD, Calif.– The company formerly known as IntraBiotics Pharmaceuticals, Inc., isrebuilding itself as Ardea Biosciences, Inc., after acquiring intellectualproperty, data, inventory, and equipment from Valeant PharmaceuticalsInternational and hiring a new management team.
Ardea will research and develop drugs aimed at HIV, cancer,and inflammation under three preclinical programs acquired from Valeant inDecember 2006 in exchange for milestone and royalty payments on productcandidates. The transaction, says Barry Quart, president and CEO of Ardea, cameafter IntraBiotics's failed large-scale trials of iseganan led to drastic staffreductions and a lengthy search for merger or acquisition opportunities. "Alongwith the [Valeant] programs – the actual intellectual property – we also endedup hiring the research people that were left in [Valeant] at the end of theyear," says Quart.
Although Valeant's R&D cadre was also depleted, fromabout 120 to 50, during Valeant's restructuring, little productivity was lostin the move to Ardea, says Quart, because Ardea immediately leased the group'slab space from Valeant in Costa Mesa.As a plus, Zhi Hong, formerly of Valeant, is now executive vice president,research and chief scientific officer at Ardea.
Valeant and Ardea also have a research agreement under whichArdea is undertaking preclinical work on an epilepsy drug for Valeant. Ardeastands to earn $3.5 million annually for the research, with the possibility ofreceiving milestones and renewal of the one-year term. Zhi says Ardea has apreclinical group and infrastructure that supports, among other things,researching drug metabolism and toxicity, preformulation, formulation andanimal studies. "We do have all the little things that a typical discovery [or]pure research company doesn't have," he says.
For Zhi, who calls drug discovery and research his passion,the appeal of Ardea is the opportunity to move compounds from their beginningstages through commercialization in one company. Zhi and Quart both seessynergies between Ardea's capabilities and the Valeant programs, with Quartciting "great opportunity of taking some interesting research technology andputting it together with very solid, very experienced development people."Quart and Kimberly Manhard, Ardea's senior vice president of regulatory affairsand operations, have resumes that cover drug trials and approvals. The appeal of Valeant's programs was driven partly bymarket opportunities for HIV and cancer drugs, says Quart, and Ardea'sinterests in those indications go beyond Valeant candidates. Though he couldnot provide details, Quart says Ardea will consider other targets inindications with large returns on investment. "One of the things about workingin a small biotech environment that's different from a large pharma is it isreally important to be in targets that are either validated or easilyvalidatable."
  Quart likes antivirals because drug value is clearafter simple phase 2a studies, making trials efficient. He has high hopes forMEK inhibitors, such as Ardea's AR119, which Ardea hopes will enter Phase 1clinical trials in 2007. Observers of Ardea, says Quart, can expect to see aNASDAQ relisting and "some pretty strategic acquisition to support ourinterests, particularly in antivirals." That suits Zhi, who claims a strongbackground working with hepatitis C and HIV: "The company has a strategy," hesays. "Obviously, we're all very strong in the antiviral space."
 

Lisa Espenschade

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