Inception Sciences, the discovery-stage biotech firm-slash-incubator created from the ground up to spin out assets in a buyer-friendly manner, has its first pharma partner.
The San Diego firm has created a spin-off dubbed Inception 3 that will house a technology platform from Stanford University and develop drugs to treat permanent hearing loss. Roche is the partner, pledging R&D funds via undisclosed milestones in exchange for an option to acquire the company when Inception files its IND package for the first lead compound.
If you're wondering what happened to Inception 1 and 2, they were announced when Inception was unveiled in the summer of 2011 with general therapeutic areas of focus, one neurology, one oncology. But to date there's been no word of their products, programs, or outside partners.
Inception itself came from the aftermath of Bristol-Myers Squibb's acquisition of Amira Pharmaceuticals, a lucrative but complicated affair that saw BMS extract Amira's lead candidate for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, plus a preclinical program, for $325 million in upfront cash. BMS did not take hold of other Amira assets, however, and spinning them into separate entities was a headache. So Amira CEO Peppi Prasit and Versant partner Brad Bolzon formed Inception in anticipation of Prasit's team, once a drug-hunting unit at Merck, remaining similarly productive.
In addition to the little Inceptions potentially housing the fruits of labor from Inception's drug hunting team, the company has also created a "build to buy" strategy, according to chief business officer Clare Ozawa. The idea is to hitch a program early to a potential acquirer with prearranged options. Versant has already accomplished the trick outside of the Inception structure with Quanticel Pharmaceuticals, also a Stanford spinout (unrelated to the hearing-loss program). After a long incubation, Versant brought Quanticel out of stealth in 2011 with Celgene on board.
The Roche deal for Inception 3 was revealed Wednesday in unusual fashion, in an "advertorial" article penned by Roche touting its neurology partnering program in the October 10 issue of Nature. Ozawa confirmed the deal but declined to comment further. Our "Pink Sheet" colleagues will have more details later today, so stay tuned. -- Alex Lash