Buying local

TheraCode acquires fellow German company JPT Peptide Technologies

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MAINZ, Germany—TheraCode GmbH, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johannes Gutenberg University spin-off company BioNTech AG, acquired all shares of JPT Peptide Technologies GmbH from Jerini AG of Berlin on May 7 for $6.8 million in an all-cash deal.

BioNTech is a biotech company developing novel personalized  immunotherapy approaches, and the acquisition is seen by Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, not only a move to add value to TheraCode, but also as a way to accelerate JPT's expansion into a "globally leading, quality service provider for high-content peptide arrays, peptide pools and peptide libraries for all development phases of novel vaccines."

JPT, formerly a fully-owned subsidiary of Jerini AG, is an integrated provider of innovative peptide-based research tools and services for biomarker discovery, immune monitoring and vaccine development. Under the leadership of former managing director Dr. Holger Wenschuh, the unit will be continued as JPT Peptide Technologies GmbH.
Sahin reports that TheraCode will retain all of JPT's production facilities, employees and contractual obligations.

"The investment in JPT not only provides us with access to its unique and proprietary portfolio of peptide technologies, it will also accelerate JPT's continued growth, increase its visibility and further improve its well recognized services to an international client base," says Sahin. He adds that "our main focus will be the creation of a globally acting innovative service provider for value-added peptide tools in immunology, proteomics and signal transduction."

"The acquisition of JPT endows BioNTech with complementary expertise of high synergistic potential, which will strengthen its  unique portfolio  of proprietary  targets  and technologies," observes Helmut Jeggle, chair of the supervisory board of BioNTech. "This is an important step in our long-term strategy to build an excellent and competitive company providing comprehensive technology platforms for drug and biomarker development."

The acquisition deal fits into Jerini AG's long-term strategies as well, given that the company had announced in October 2008 a strategy to divest non-strategic businesses and focus on its core business, the commercialization of the drug Firazyr (icatibant) for the treatment of hereditary angioedema. The sale of JPT was just one step in that plan, though, as the company announced May 15 in its first quarter financial report that it "continues on the divestment of Jerini's preclinical programs."

British drugs group Shire Pharmaceuticals purchased Jerini for $521 million in June 2008 and Jerini and Shire have been reviewing assets in an attempt to maximize the German company's value. In addition to the sale of JPT and the eventual sale of preclinical programs, plans include the divesture of Jerini Ophthalmic.

While the sharp focus on Firazyr may be tied to Shire's and Jerini's anticipation that it could have market value for them, it may also be driven in part by the need to do additional work on the drug. It received marketing authorization in the European Union and will be launched this year, but Firazyr ran into some trouble with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late last year, which refused to approved the drug and put Jerini is a position of having to arrange for addition clinical trials work to answer FDA's concerns.

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