Roche snaps up PIramed for $175 million

Amy Swinderman
NUTLEY, N.J.—Seeking tobeef up its research and development portfolio, Roche announced April 15 it acquiredPIramed Ltd., a privately owned U.K.-based biotechnology company focused ontherapeutics targeting PI3-kinase (PI3-K), in a deal that could be worth up to$175 million.
 
Underthe terms of the agreement, Roche will acquire 100 percent of PIramed's sharesfor $160 million, plus a milestone payment of $15 million, which is due uponthe commencement of phase II clinical trials for the company's oncologyprogram.
 
Thetransaction is expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2008.
 
Rochesaid in a statement that its R&D pipeline will be strengthened by PIramed'stwo major research programs targeting PI3-K-alpha in oncology and PI3-K-deltain inflammatory disease. The PI3-K pathway is known to play an important rolein disease progression and in resistance to chemotherapeutics in cancer cells.Pre-clinical studies have demonstrated the activity of PI3-K inhibitors in abroad range of tumors such as breast and lung cancer, as well as theirpotential importance in treating inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoidarthritis.
 
"Theintegration of PIramed's promising research and development reaffirms andfurther strengthens Roche's leadership in oncology," says William M. Burns, CEOof Roche's Pharmaceuticals Division. "While innovative medicines haveundoubtedly transformed cancer treatment, cancer remains a major cause of deathand we are committed to investing in the development of new treatment options.In addition, this acquisition augments our research efforts in debilitatingdiseases such as rheumatoid arthritis."
 
Dr. David Knowles, CSO and research and development director at PIramed,says the acquisition underlines the value of PIramed's pipeline and is a "testament tothe quality of the science developed by our team."
 
"WithRoche's undisputed excellence in oncology and inflammatory disease, PIramed hasfound a secure long term home for some world class science," Knowles says. "Our research, most notably on the alpha and delta PI3Kisoforms, will provide Roche with an immediate entry into PI3K inhibitorresearch, which has become a really hot target area for the treatment of cancerand immune inflammatory disorders."
 
Piramed'sPI3-K-alpha program has a compound in Phase I, which is currently beingdeveloped in collaboration with Genentech, in whom Roche has a majorityownership interest.
 
"Our PI3K alpha program is partnered with Genentech and we haverecently announced the fact that our lead molecule, GDC-0941 is in Phase Iclinical trials," Knowles says. "This molecule was recently highlighted in therecent AACR meeting in San Diegoand PIramed retained options to ex-US rights to the program, which would nowfall to Roche."
 
T
hepreviously un-partnered PI3-K-delta program, while at a pre-clinical stage,will be integrated into Roche's inflammatory R&D portfolio.
 
 
"Our PI3K delta program is in late pre-clinical research with theintention to progress suitable drug candidates for the treatment of rheumatoidarthritis in the first instance," Knowles says. "The program is based on abroad family of inhibitors with significant potential for the treatment of arange of other immune inflammatory disorders, including allergy and asthma, inaddition to the treatment of hematological and certain solid cancers." 
 
Roche brings a breadth of resources and depth of experience todrug discovery and development that are simply unmatched in small biotechs likePiramed, Knowles adds.
 
"These greatly facilitatethe selection of the 'right' drug candidate for the 'right' indication and canprovide a more extensive development path than is usually available. This allhelps increase the chance of success," he says.
 

Amy Swinderman

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