Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Diamond in the Rough: Roche Buys PIramed

Roche said this morning that it was buying the UK biotech PIramed, a five year old firm focused on targeting the PI3-kinase pathway to treat various cancers and inflammatory diseases.

The deal values PIramed at $160 million; a further $15 million is payable on the achievement of a relatively easy milestone: initiation of Phase II studies on PIramed's oncology program (not a foregone conclusion, but given it is already in Phase I, chances are good).

PIramed is at the vanguard of PI3-kinase inhibition, a position that attracted attention from Genentech back in 2005, and we suppose Roche decided to keep it all in the family. Three years ago that oncology deal, valued at up to $230 million, was a rare early example of biotechs' ability to parlay innovative technology into relatively lucrative early-stage deals and non-dilutive R&D funding. (Our 2004 profile of PIramed is here, and our 2006 analysis of the Genentech deal is here.)

Only last month the companies announced progress in the collaboration, as lead compound GDC-0941 hit the clinic in the US and the UK. PIramed had even managed to hang onto an option to commercialize cmpounds emerging from the collaboration ex-US. The company's inflammatory programs, in late-stage preclinical development, remained unpartnered.

Roche's acquisition of PIramed this morning is, in contrast to the miserable news of late from Blighty Biotech, a jolt of good fortune. Unless of course you're predisposed to think any acquisition of a UK biotech is damaging to the country's ailing sector; even so, the Cenes/Paion deal this is not. Merlin and JPMorgan, PIramed's two backers, have made a solid return--their original ₤10 million investment (then worth about $17 million) has blossomed rather nicely.

No comments: