DEERFIELD, Ill.—Baxter International Inc. has announced the acquisition of biopharmaceutical company AesRx, LLC, a private company based in Newton, Mass., that specializes in orphan drug targets. While specific terms were not disclosed, Baxter has made an initial payment to acquire AesRx, and may make additional future payments if pre-established development, regulatory and commercial milestones are met.
“With this acquisition, we gain a compound that has the potential to address an extremely high unmet clinical need in a community with inadequate treatment options and no recent major clinical developments,” Dr. Ludwig Hantson, president of Baxter BioScience, said in a press release. “This program is complementary to our established experience in hemophilia and supports our goals to raise the bar for care of patients with a range of blood-related disorders.”
AesRx’s lead program in development is Aes-103, an investigational prophylactic treatment for sickle cell disease. The drug candidate is a first-in-class, oral, small-molecule compound and is currently being investigated in a Phase 2 clinical trial as part of an ongoing collaboration with the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) through its Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program. As AesRx notes on its website, Aes-103 stabilizes sickle hemoglobin “in the high oxygen-affinity R-state, thus directly preventing sickling. It has also been shown to stabilize sickle red blood cells against the shear stress associated with [sickle cell disease.]” Aes-103 was originally discovered and developed by researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Structural Biology and Drug Discovery. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted the compound orphan designation, and Aes-103 is also eligible for the same designation in Europe.
“Sickle cell disease was the first disease to ever have its molecular cause discovered, and now a potential treatment based on that discovery has at last been developed,” NCATS Director Dr. Christopher P. Austin, noted in a press release. “This success validates the NCATS model, which is based on a novel collaborative approach that de-risks intervention development programs to enable private-sector investment. We look forward to applying this model to the thousands of rare diseases that are currently untreatable, so that we realize the NCATS mission of getting more treatments to more patients more quickly.”
Sickle cell disease is a disorder in which red blood cells deform into a sickle shape, which hampers blood flow by blocking capillaries and blood vessels and can lead to chronic hemolytic anemia, chronic pain, stroke, acute chest syndrome and other damage to tissues and organs. More than 13 million people worldwide live with sickle cell disease.
“By becoming a part of Baxter’s organization, we believe this will provide Aes-103 the needed resources and expertise to complete a robust development and commercialization program,” Stephen Seiler, founder and former CEO of AesRx, commented in a statement. “Baxter has a demonstrated track record in the treatment of hematological orphan diseases and is an ideal company to take this important program forward.”
The acquisition has also gained Baxter the Aes-210 program, which AesRx is developing to treat inflammatory diseases of the lower intestine such as ulcerative colitis, distal ulcerative colitis, pouchitis and radiation-induced proctitis.
SOURCE: Baxter International press release