Synthetic biology company Intrexon said today it plans to acquire via tender offer the remaining share in Exemplar Genetics it did not acquire when it bought Trans Ova Genetics last year. The price was not disclosed.
In buying Exemplar, Intrexon will acquire its pipeline of large animal research models—namely transgenic, miniature swine models intended for research and development of treatments for human diseases such as heart disease, cancer, cystic fibrosis, cardiac arrhythmia, neuromuscular, and neurodegenerative disorders.
“Exemplar's leading technologies and expertise provide the necessary infrastructure to facilitate humanized large animal disease model development and characterization,” Gregory Frost, Ph.D., svp and head of Intrexon's Health Sector, said in a statement.
Added John R. Swart, Ph.D., Exemplar’s president and CEO: “We believe our cutting-edge genetic engineering capabilities combined with the power of Intrexon's synthetic biology technology platform have the potential to break new ground in creating animal models that more closely replicate human diseases.”
Exemplar uses its own gene modification technology and production system to create its custom-designed swine models. The company says they are anatomically similar to humans and surpass many of the limitations of mice- and rat-based models, including lack of translation and differences in size and metabolism, thus designed to overcome a long-standing challenge for the medical research industry.
Exemplar’s most advanced porcine model, ExeGen LDLR-/-&+/- is designed to empower drug and device discovery in cardiac disease through targeted disruption of the endogenous
LDLR (low-density lipoprotein receptor) gene. In humans, loss-of-function mutations in LDLR lead to familial hypercholesterolemia, characterized by elevated plasma concentrations of cholesterol. Heterozygotes exhibit significantly higher cholesterol levels and an increased risk for atherosclerosis.
Next month, Exemplar will present a miniature swine preclinical oncology model expressing a cancer mutation in the TP53 gene at the Molecular Med Tri-Con Conference, to be held in San Francisco February 16–18. The oncology model is designed to represent the human condition in exhibiting lymphomas as well as osteogenic tumors, and may be useful in facilitating development of approaches for detection and treatment of cancers.
“This new mini-swine model of cancer opens the door to developing more effective imaging approaches and therapies for tumor detection and treatment, and we are very excited to present our findings during the conference,” said Dr. Swart.
And in 2012, researchers from the University of Iowa published a study in Nature using an Exemplar-developed animal model of cystic fibrosis to discover a difference between healthy airways and airways affected by cystic fibrosis that led to reduced bacterial killing in cystic fibrosis airways. The finding directly linked the genetic cause of cystic fibrosis—mutations in a channel protein called cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR)—to the disruption of a biological mechanism that protects lungs from bacterial infection.
Trans Ova spun out Exemplar in 2009 through a $1 million forgivable loan from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, replaced in 2011 by the public-private Iowa Economic Development Authority. Trans Ova—a provider of bovine reproductive technologies and the largest producer and supplier of bovine embryos in North America—kept a minority stake in Exemplar.
Late last year, Intrexon acquired Trans Ova for $110 million. Of that price, Intrexon shelled out about $60 million in upfront cash and agreed to pay $30 million in Intrexon common stock, and up to $20 million in deferred payments.